Today we talk to Cathy Nesbitt about how to start your own worm farm in 2022.
Hey everyone! We're here to talk about worm farming.
First things first: what is worm farming?
Worm farming, or vermicomposting, is a process that uses worms to break down organic matter into rich soil for use in gardens and farms. It's been around for decades and is growing in popularity as more people become aware of its benefits.
If you're interested in starting your own worm farm, there are two ways you can do it: by selling compost made from your worms' waste or by using their waste as fertilizer. Either way, you'll end up with a supply of rich soil that's great for your plants!
how to start your own worm farm in 2022
Worm bin size
- Fruit and vegetable scraps (no citrus or onion peels, please)
- Grains (rice, oatmeal, wheat)
- Coffee grounds and tea leaves (unused)These items can be added directly to your worm bin after being chopped or ground up into small pieces. You should also add a small amount of soil from time to time as this will give them something else to chew on. The worms will process these materials and produce castings that contain valuable nutrients for your soil.
- Choose the right type of worms: Red wigglers (also called redworms) are ideal for composting organic waste because they eat quickly and reproduce quickly. They grow up to 1/2 inch long and thrive at temperatures between 50-80 degrees Fahrenheit during cooler months and warmer months when temperatures reach 80 degrees or higher. Earthworms also work well for composting, but they're smaller than red wigglers (3/4 inch long) so it takes longer for them to break down organic matter like food scraps into usable soil amendments such as worm castings that help plants grow faster and better. Whichever type of earthworm you choose depends on what size container suits your needs best—you may have more room in an indoor kitchen countertop space with less light exposure than outdoors where there's direct sunlight exposure every day!
Cathy Nesbitt is a Health and Wellness Advocate. Founder of Cathy’s Crawly Composters (est 2002), Cathy’s Sprouters and Cathy’s Laughter Club. She is a multi-award-winning environmental innovator who uses workshops and inspirational speaking to motivate people to live a more sustainable life. Cathy is a certified Laughter Yoga Teacher. Appointed Laughter Ambassador in 2017 by Dr. Madan Kataria, founder of Laughter Yoga. Cathy is an avid cyclist and gardener.
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Abel Garza 0:01
Hey guys, Welcome to Creative Entrepreneurship a podcast dedicated to helping entrepreneurs build their business based on successes and failures of other entrepreneurs. Today we have an amazing guest. Talking about how to start your own worm farm in 2022. Please help me welcome Kathy Nesbitt. How're you doing today?
Cathy Nesbitt 0:18
Oh, I'm doing great. I'm excited to be here.
Abel Garza 0:21
Man. I'm excited. This is something that we haven't talked about on the show is creating your own worm farm. I thought that was pretty interesting. You know, there's a lot of times when people they're looking for ideas, they're looking for ways in which they can help the environment help themselves create a business at the same time. And what better than a worm farm? No, it's amazing. Why don't we start out by getting a little bit of information from you as to who you are, what you do and how you've been helping people?
Cathy Nesbitt 0:46
Well, my working title is Kathy Crowley laughing being queen. It's the 20th anniversary of Kathy's curly composer's selling worms by the pound Can you imagine? Yeah, so it's it really is simple solutions for today's challenges worms, for amending the soil, sprouts for eating and laughter for overall health and wellness.
Abel Garza 1:06
Yeah, that's amazing. That's great. I love the idea. Because I mean, if you can turn it into a business, and you can also help the environment, you can help yourself, you can help your family. And there's ways in which you can save money and build a business on worms. That's amazing. To me, it's probably a dirty job, you know, with all the soil and poop and stuff, but I think it's pretty amazing that you're able to take something from the earth, and just turn it into something that everybody can use, either whether it be compost or or, you know, fertilizer, or anything that might be useful in even in your local area. How did you start? What gave you the idea to do I know that you've been doing this for a long time, or you've been doing it for what 20 years now, which will get many years? What gave you the idea to do this?
Cathy Nesbitt 1:53
Yeah, I was gonna say, you know, ideas like it sounds, you know, idea like, oh, wow, she's solving a solution and all that. But things don't just arrive there. You know, there is a whole path. So I'm located in Toronto largest city in Canada and our landfill closed in 2002, meaning it filled up. And although Canada's second largest country in the world, we couldn't find a new place to cite a landfill and we started to export our garbage to the US. And at the beginning, it was 200 trucks a day Monday to Friday, 1000 trucks a week. Honking transport trucks, can you imagine? I mean, that's it's, it's, it's staggering when I think about it 4000 trucks a month? You know, I don't know, keep going. I mean, the math, the math is just unbelievable. And and I'm not talking about the Canadian and American people. This was a government decision between the governments, you know, and we paid a lot for the privilege. So it was like for Canadians, Oh, bye, bye, tax dollars. There they go. There they go rolling down their highway.
Abel Garza 2:56
You saw you saw what a pain in the market, you saw that there was something that needs to be fulfilled, you know, people are exporting garbage. And it's expensive. Why not? Why not utilize worms in order to you know, reduce the garbage that people are putting out? And of course, you can utilize that. So it's it's it's a win win for for everyone? How did you start out financially? It wasn't expensive. Did you do Bootstrap? Did you obtain financing? What steps did you take take to to really start to implement this idea that you had for for starting your worm farm?
Cathy Nesbitt 3:33
Yeah, I had no idea what to do. So I would suggest if somebody wants to start a business in anything, you know, really get help, because there's lots of help today for entrepreneurs. But what I yeah, I just knew I had a solution, you know, you again, back to Toronto, 6 million people half living in condos and townhouses without space to do outdoor composting. So I was just Passion Driven. I was purpose, Passion Driven. And I just, I just started I didn't know that people didn't want what I had. So did you know people, you know, people don't buy what they need, they buy what they want. And they definitely didn't want worms in the house to start out
Abel Garza 4:14
with your own money. Or did you? Did you find salutely? Yeah,
Cathy Nesbitt 4:16
I've never I've never got any financing or any loans or grants or anything. It was, you know, really buying worms trying it and then they breed and it was really a lot of hit and miss a lot of trial and error. And I just believed in so much and what I was doing so I would have it ended up that my business in the beginning was really an education business. Because people didn't know this was a possibility. So if you don't know that you can have worms in the house. You're not calling so I came up with an expression work without awareness action is impossible. And and and it's in it's true. And it was like if you don't know that you can do worm composting in the house to manage your food scraps in your paper. You And then you know, forms that the original Alchemist, they turn garbage, you know, what we call trash into black gold, aka nutrient rich food fertilizer so we can grow more delicious, nutritious food. It's it's massive, and I really started my business as a waste management tool and quickly realized, Oh, the waste management is the side benefit, although it's huge. The real benefit for doing this is the fertilizer, you know, our food is broken. In North America, we've we've wrecked the soil because of our farming practices, you know, we think we can just grow corn like for in a whole area we can't, like we can, if we put enough chemicals, but then you know, those chemicals are getting in US and in our air and water and everything. And anyway, so this is a way for us to return the nutrients back to the soil. And I really think that if we do it on a grassroots level, like if everybody is managing their scraps everybody using that black gold compost to grow something like in Canada, we we import 60% of our food. So when our border closes, like during a pandemic, we become very food insecure.
Abel Garza 6:16
Yeah, I mean, there is like, there has been shortages, you know, shortages of fertilizer, I mean, I don't know how much how much a farm could produce, you know, to help local farmers, but you can use the fertilizer for yourself, you know, if you have a little piece of land, you know, grow your own food. I know there's people in the government Sir, there's a lot of regulation when it comes to that sometimes. But, you know, when it comes down to it, if you're growing your own food, you know where it's coming from, you know, what you're putting into it, you know, what's going on with it. So you have the, you know, the ability to, to grow the, the organic food that you need, and having this you know, this first step, the fertilizer is, it's, it's amazing to have that ability. That way you can continually grow your food, you know, obviously the nutrients in the soil they deplete. And having having this ability to regenerate the soil, you know, will continually I guess you will have a continual flow of food, you know, we can't live without, without food, you know. So this is super important. When you are looking at your, your startup and you've you've you've started your finance or you started your own farm with the financing now, what would you expect to start with? You know, should you start big, because they grow called him from what I understand worms, they just want to have sex and eat, you know, they want to breed and eat. And so you're gonna continue you're gonna have this continual flow of worms, so it's gonna grow. What should you start out with? In order to really start to see something prolific with your idea of building a worm farm? And which direction should you go? Should you go the worm selling direction? Or should you go the fertilizer? Selling?
Cathy Nesbitt 8:14
Great questions. Okay, so start small for sure. Absolutely. If you've never done vermi, composting, or worm composting before, don't don't invest a whole lot of dough, and then find out oh my god, I don't know what I'm doing. Because they're live creatures and they'll die and your investment will go in the, you know, right into the, into the grass into the soil. And I'm not laughing I just, you know, really, there's there is money to be made here. And you can have a business but I would like anything, there's a learning curve. So So learn how to, like buy a pound of worms start with a pound of worms. In the US, there's all kinds of red wiggler growers and I know we haven't talked about the type of worm. Definitely start small learn how to do it, they are prolific breeders. So once you figure that out, then once you've mastered a pound of worms and you know what to do, how to feed them, you know all of the conditions then you can always add more worms you can always buy you know, an additional whack a worms to to start your business. But definitely start small you know, I've had people by 2050 100 pounds of worms, but they don't know what they're doing. And then you know, if you lose your worms, once they start to go they go very quickly because they're all in the same environment. So start small folks just learn what you're doing and then and then you can add you can always add more. If you're going to start a worm business, oh, do not sell the worms. I know that we have to have worm sellers. But really the if you want to make money in a like a more regular I guess have repeat customer Murrs sell the compost because the compost just like any fertilizer needs to be reapplied on a regular basis. So, selling the compost, it's something you're, you're always regenerating, you're making more. And then you sell that compost and it's a beautiful, a beautiful or waiters to go organic. It's just a wonderful way, when you look after the soil, the soil looks after the plant. And you're right, the soil gets deplete, because when the plants are growing, the nutrients are coming out of the soil into the plant. So if we do anything other than compost, those scraps are put at the back into the soil somehow we're robbing the soil and then we need to add chemicals.
Abel Garza 10:42
That makes sense. That makes sense. And so I mean, there's there's a lot of questions I have with regard to this, you know, separating eggs separating worm separating the compost what to feed them. There's a lot of things that are going through my mind as far as you know, what I need to do and what I need to learn. What What if I'm going to start right now, you mentioned start small, sell the fertilizer. What is the biggest lesson that I need to really delve into? Like what do I need to learn the most?
Cathy Nesbitt 11:15
How to look after a pound of worms. So what are the conditions so the main ingredients, three key elements for successful vermicomposting, temperature, moisture, airflow temperature, 60 to 80 Fahrenheit. I know what that isn't Celsius, because I'm bilingual. It's like 18 to 28, something like that. Celsius, moisture, so about 75% humidity, and then airflow you need air holes in your in your bin, any size hole will do. The worms can get out of any hole, they don't have bones. So, you know, sometimes people are like, oh, you know, I think you don't even need a lid on your worm bin, but you kind of do. It's like a psychological barrier. And it keeps your band dark, right, the worms don't like the light. So you want to have a like an opaque container container. Again, back to your Rubbermaid. You don't want to clear container, you want something that's dark, and then you can leave it anywhere. Room temperature, so don't worry about measuring the temperature and all that room temperature is fine. So in Texas, it may be too hot in most parts of Canada in the winter to cold. So both climates would would benefit from having the worms inside or in a climate controlled environment.
Abel Garza 12:35
So like a greenhouse or something like that. So if you had a greenhouse and would that be enough?
Cathy Nesbitt 12:41
Yeah, we're in the basement, you know, just, you know in the house is fine. If we're comfortable, they're comfortable, the worms are going to stay in the container. Because they're eating half their weight per day, they don't have eyes, no point in going sightseeing. And they're eating half their weight per day. So as long as the conditions are right in the bin, they're going to be fine. And so the bedding is shredded paper could be leaves straw card cardboard, enough water so the the bedding is the consistency of a wrung out sponge. Better to wet them to dry. Gotcha about a better shovel of soil like a scoop of shot of soil, just outdoor garden soil. You're adding soil for the micro organisms, worms don't have teeth. So there's little bugs or little organisms in the soil that help to break down the food. They're the decomposers it's a whole science lesson. Yeah. And then egg shells, you need to add maybe six to eight crushed eggshells. Again another another material that you can add in you know something else that you can keep out of landfill. And then you just mix all that together. The worms like it moist and fluffy and then you add your worms on top. They make their way in and then you just feed them your food scraps from the kitchen.
Abel Garza 14:01
So you know you're talking when you say food because I know that a lot of times people use like newspapers and they use paper and you said the leaves are great nitrogen source. When you talk about food,
Cathy Nesbitt 14:12
what are been sourced? Those are carbon sources the paper.
Abel Garza 14:16
Okay, Okay, gotcha. And so when, when you're looking at food, you're looking at what type you don't want to put meats and stuff in there do you?
Cathy Nesbitt 14:25
Correct right okay, so it's all your like kind of fruit and veg, fruit and veg peels, coffee, tea, cooked pasta and rice, moldy bread. Plant clippings are a nitrogen source. And then if you get into your manures if you have rot a rabbit or hamster, guinea pig, any of those type of little rodent Pat's, you can put all of their bedding in all of their poop and all of their urine all of that stuff can go into your worm bin too. So it's, they eat that daily that as well. Like it's kind They're kind of, you know, another top predator of, for the stuff to decompose the material. It's some actually worm growers will have rabbits. And then they have their worm bin right under the rabbit hut. So, all the poop, everything falls right into the worm bin. So they have a couple of things, they might have meat rabbits, and then you know the poop is then being managed, it's not nothing more to be done, it's in the worm bin, and then you do need to separate you did ask me about separating. So at certain point, you would need to harvest your worms and separate the worms in the compost. The worms will man, they will re consume their poop a few times six, six or seven times to get the nutrients out. So then the the compost becomes more finer and finer. What's kind of already being processed, it's really amazing. They really are these marvels of nature's, that are just waiting. They're underground. And they're, you know, they're just waiting. They've been around since a dinosaur. It's it's they're the coolest things. And they've evolved. I mean, they keep on staying, so they have some kind of, I guess, kind of like cockroaches they have this power to remain, regardless of conditions.
Abel Garza 16:11
So amazing. I know. I could probably honestly talk about this all day long. Just because it's so interesting. It's so interesting to me. So so we got the you know, the startup not very much because they're gonna breed and they're gonna eat the type of food that they need is paper leaves. Refuse, like, you know, banana peels and obviously eggs and stuff like that. Or I should say egg excels egg shells, because you don't want to throw I guess the whole egg in there. And so no meats and then
Cathy Nesbitt 16:46
so yeah, no meat. No dairy. Thank you for that. No meat, no dairy, no sauce, no greasy stuff. Yeah, so I would say more your your prep stuff rather than the plate scrapings. Right. Because you might have, you might have a nice beautiful salad. But your salad on the plate has dressing on it now. Oh, yeah. Gotcha. And that would be harmful to the words.
Abel Garza 17:08
Okay. Yeah, that makes sense. What about lemons? or lemon juice? I'm just curious to some people, sometimes people is that is that okay? Or is that too?
Cathy Nesbitt 17:16
So I would say citrus I would leave out of the of the fruit and veg, I would say I leave out citrus, garlic and onions. If you have enough other stuff, no
Abel Garza 17:24
onions, no garlic, you don't want those things have any kind of heartburn? And then so. So we so we got you know, the it's very minimal. What about the barriers to entry? Like, if you wanted to have this and you want it to turn it into something commercial? What are the barriers to entry for this? Are there any kind of regulations? Are there? Is there anything that will kind of impede I know there's there's different regulations in different areas and different locations. So just research where you're at, and then figure that out. But when you start and the people that you've helped, what are some of those regulations that have hindered or helped farmers who want to start their own worm farm and composting?
Cathy Nesbitt 18:08
Yeah, so I, I really, you know, rather than the idea of, of the worm business, I mean, it is possible to have a worm business, but really learn how it works. And then as far as regulations, for sure, look at what what your state or municipality, what kind of regulations they have. If for some reason when you're hauling, if you're going to be have a business, you're probably going to need to import some kind of food waste or some kind of something that the worms are going to need to eat so the worms on the farm will eat manure so they they will reduce manure piles up to 80% reducing or eliminate gram negative bacteria. So E coli, Salmonella Shigella problems that are in raw manure. The worms have a have a magical way of binding up those materials and making the manure safer for handling. So on the farm, I would recommend, you know, cattle cattle producers and horse farms and sheep farmers, goats, any of those vegetarian animals to employ worms in their manure piles. Like sometimes they have people come and take their manure piles. I'm not sure what happens in the states some places in Canada, you know, it's sort of a nuisance, and it depending on what industry you're looking at, there's a large I guess in Texas to horse industry. A lot of the horse people don't want to manage the manure like they're like that's not the manure part. You know, the cattle farmers don't mind because the manure is often used for growing their crops with so for horse people I get so I'm looking at if somebody's looking at a business for for feedstock, look at the look at the where there's lots of waste look where there's stuff that they're like, oh, paying a lot to get rid of. If you offer to take it for free, or, you know, a smaller charge, you can make money in the hauling but just know what the regulations are in that.
Abel Garza 20:18
I know a lot you're lucky. Sorry, if
Cathy Nesbitt 20:19
you're looking to be looking at horse manure, talk to the far the horse owners about when they use last year's, the de worming medication on the horse, because that would be in the in the manure.
Abel Garza 20:33
And that will be interesting. Yeah, I know that a lot of the grocery stores, you know, they throw away a lot of the expired stuff. And so that might be an option for maybe while your local grocery stores that instead of throwing it in the in the in a in a garbage bin that is going to be taken away by the city and just don't ever landfill, maybe you can negotiate something with them that they can just put it in a separate location and you just pick it up every couple of days or whatever. So there is opportunity out there to you get some, you know, free stuff if you're willing to go and take it out. I'm sure there's there's areas where you can get paper, you know, shredded paper and just throw throw some you know, good there's offices everywhere that have paper shredders, you know, that's I think I'm just looking, I'm thinking out loud here. And then
Cathy Nesbitt 21:26
this is beautiful. That's that's how that's how you come up. Oh, I never paid for boxes for shipping. Because they're everywhere I go to the drugstore and their little toothpaste boxes. I'm like, Oh, can I can I take these? And so yeah, I I'm very frugal when it comes to what I what I paid for my business. Yeah.
Abel Garza 21:47
One of the questions I would have and I and this is probably something that you can research when you're when you're starting your business is separating everything you know, and how you go about doing it. Like do you submit you mentioned separating the worms after certain time, you know, how are you taking them out? Because they're gonna get there? I guess there's gonna be more than what you need in that area. And I'm sure there's what eggs they do they lay eggs. Is that what they do? Okay, so do you separate that stuff? Do you separate eggs? Do you separate worms? Do you separate compost? And and if you do that, how, how do you go about doing that? Just seems like
Cathy Nesbitt 22:27
it's labor intensive. It is. Yeah, yeah, it can be right. So if you're gonna have a worm business, if and if you're selling the compost, make sure that you love it. Make sure that you love it. Otherwise, it's gonna be horrible job. Right? You're gonna be like, Oh my god, I hate worms. I'm afraid of worms or whatever. Okay, so how do you separate if you have, we'll just go back to the Rubbermaid. And then people can think about how they could scale up and there is equipment, there is harvesting equipment for larger scale, but for the small scale you empty or your Rubbermaid, the easiest way to separate is the dump and sort so you dump it out on a plastic sheet, put it in small round piles, the worms are photosensitive are afraid of the light so they go down into the piles, and then you just scoop off the top of each pile and they're going down. That's why the smaller the pile, the faster the harvest. If your compost is really wet, you might want to put a little fan on there to dry it out a bit because that's going to force them down into the pile as well. That cocoons are the eggs are very small the size of a sesame seed I used to say grape seeds and then the kids said the grapes don't have seeds they used to when they taste awful so that now I say sesame seeds like a swollen sesame seed that's how big the eggs are so they are small. Once you're when you start breeding worms you do recognize the eggs if you are able to pick them out and if not, then they go in the compost and they're not they're not going to cause any harm.
Abel Garza 24:00
Okay, gotcha. So you don't really necessarily need to harvest the eggs unless you're sowing the worms right? Okay, but you recommended against that you should sell the compost
Cathy Nesbitt 24:11
right yes I you know just because when you with with the model that I chose I don't have repeat customers except I do because I do speaking Yeah. Which is kind of another way right? There's you could speak about it do workshops, I go into schools, I speak at garden clubs, I go into corporations and set them up with composting. So I've kind of created a little consulting kind of business and a little bit do at all I do a bit of this a bit of that. But if somebody was going to sell the worms, right you don't you don't have repeat customers because you're selling the worms and then they've got worms and they multiply and then they have a little business that's amazing but it's not that easy. Right? That's that's the challenge is getting the repeat customers where if you are selling the capo was raised marijuana just became legal in Canada. I don't know, a couple of years ago. And even before that marijuana growers were coming to me for the compost because it's it's nature's finest fertilizer. Yeah. So there's a huge, a huge, huge and the and the marijuana growers are looking for organic solutions. They don't want to put chemicals because it's for there. You know, a lot of it is medicinal.
Abel Garza 25:25
Yeah. No, that makes sense. It makes sense. And if you're able to do it organically, that's that's, yeah, that's definitely a preference for me as well. You don't want chemicals in your body. Pesticides and stuff. Yeah. Oh, you know, we've definitely covered a lot of information. I think we have some seeds to grow on. And a lot of information I usually like to ask our guests if they have any words of wisdom or some rules that that live by Do you have any of those?
Cathy Nesbitt 25:57
Yeah, not to take myself seriously. anymore. You know, yeah, I think this pandemic, if anything, it's taught me to just be just go easy and have joyful moments every day. So yeah, yeah. Just Just take it easy on yourself. For sure. For sure. What are the ones right? We were the ones that beat ourselves up. We're the one that put this the whole standard and we're judging us. We're the ones. We think it's everyone else. But it really is us pointing at ourselves.
Abel Garza 26:31
So we are definitely our own worst critic. You know, but how can I how can our listeners get a hold of you?
Cathy Nesbitt 26:39
Yeah, my website is the best way probably it's Cathy's. composters.com Kathy with a C and the NAS is on each word. And I'm all over social media too. And yeah, just get in touch. I would love to, to chat about worms.
Abel Garza 26:55
Yeah, absolutely. Well, Kathy Nesbitt, it was a pleasure having you on the show today. You're an inspiration to me and our listeners, and I'm so glad to have had you on the show today. Thank you. I appreciate the opportunity. Absolutely. Well, there you go. Guys, Kathy Nesbitt. All of her information can be in the show notes. Check that out. You know, if you want to start your own, you know, worm farm. There's a lot of information out there and Kathy just contacted her and she's been willing to give you some consultation there. Check out creative entrepreneurship.net, TCEpodcast.net, and creativeentrepreneurship.locals.com If you want to support the channel, and until next week, keep on keepin on