What do you know about red worms—AKA Red Wigglers?
- They only work in the dark.
- Eat half their weight in food every day.
- And excrete a nasty smelling liquid when handled roughly.
So, be gentle? Probably, unless you don’t mind being slimed. But, the most important thing to know about redworms is their ability to help humans use organic waste. These wigglers are voracious eaters that love all things leftover including food, plants and other organic material.
Their waste makes mulch in a process called vermicomposting—excellent for growing healthy gardens. Vermicomposting is also a zero-waste strategy for cities to manage wasted food. Considering 75% of what we eat is wasted, vermicomposting is a means to put the food to good use as compost.
Urban agriculture is a local way to address complex problems of food waste while helping grow nutritious food that can increase the health of a community. In America, it’s hard to image anyone could be hungry—yet hunger still exists for many because of lack of money or other resources.
Community gardens and greenhouses dot the nation from big cities to small towns. One example is in Onalaska, Wisconsin where the Hillview Urban Agriculture Center collaborates with educators, food agencies, healthcare providers and community gardens to help make food sustainable, local and accessible to all.
Worms have a home there too! EO Johnsonrecently volunteered at Hillview’s Hoophouse, a vermicomposting center that’s basically a four-star hotel for red worms. Volunteers helped clean out strawberry beds, pull weeds between vegetable beds and remove new shoots (suckering) on tomato plants—all food for the worms.
At Hillview, volunteers of all ages learn how things grow, participate in preparing and preserving food, then provide what is processed to area low income individuals and families, senior citizens, the specially-abled and other community members.
Urban agriculture benefits communities by providing:
- Educational and inspirational program space for people of all ages and abilities to participate.
- Organic and heirloom variety food seedlings to be sold or donated for community gardens school gardens, and the public.
- Produce for sale at farmers markets, grocery stores, restaurants and donating to food pantries.
Michael Ableman, a well-known author of many books on sustainable agriculture, says, “There is a quiet revolution stirring in our food system. It is not happening so much on the distant farms that still provide us with the majority of our food; it is happening in cities, neighborhoods, and towns. It has evolved out of the basic need that every person has to know their food, and to have some sense of control over its safety and security.”
From backyard beekeepers to roof-top vegetable garden, front yards, window boxes, urban farmers, and community gardens—EO Johnson salutes all who are contributing to improved health for communities. It appears red wigglers have a lot of eating to do!
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