Worm Composting

lhtown

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Jan 8, 2002
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Keith R,

I would like to get in contact with your Dominican friend who is into home worm composting. I have been interested in it for several months (mostly because I am tired of buying fertilizer for my tiny yard and plants while I throw out perfectly good organic waste that I have no where to compost. I have recently tried to set up a worm composting project here, but I don't know what I am doing. BTW, I live in Santo Domingo. If I could get a successful project with low start-up costs and otherwise desireable characteristics(odorless, small space, etc.), I think I could eventually get a few of my friends and neighbors to do the same for similar reasons to my own.
 

Keith R

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Ihtown,
Sure! I just emailed him with a copy of your post -- he may be contacting you directly by PM. It would be good, however, if you can provide me with your e-mail address (just send me a message through the board by PM or e-mail button below) to pass on to him.

I hope you don't mind that I moved your post into a new, separate thread on just this subject. I'm hoping to persuade my friend to post on this subject, (BIG HINT HINT, CUE CUE!!!) because he has done alot of work on this and researched all the literature & equipment and done quite a bit of his own experimenting.

How about it, J? Now's the time to speak up! Your favorite subject -- worms!!! :p

Best Regards,
Keith :glasses:
 
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lhtown

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Great! thanks a lot. I have been interested for years in organic gardening and composting. However, it is more recently since having been "urbanized" that worm composting has caught my attention. I will send you my E-mail and phone.
 

lhtown

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BTW, I understand that there is or has recently been a conference on "vermicultura" or commercial worm composting in the colonial district. I think I read about it in the Diario Libre. I have noted that here in Santo Domingo, someone is commercially producing and selling vermicompost (compost from worm farming) in a number of hardware stores and other outlets. I don't think hardly anyone knows what it is or how to use it though.
 

MaryS

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lhtown said:
Keith R,

(mostly because I am tired of buying fertilizer for my tiny yard and plants while I throw out perfectly good organic waste that I have no where to compost.

I'm curious as to why you can't compost? There is so much rich composting material in the DR. We have a bin we use here in Texas, but chicken wire or a plastic trash can is all you need. Is that out of the question for you? btw, great forum.
 

Keith R

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A Little About Composting in Latin America & the Caribbean...

I have always been amazed that there is not more composting done -- whatever the scale -- in Latin America & the Caribbean (LAC) in general, and the DR in particular.

The few successful projects in LAC that I have ever heard about have all been small-scale -- a family home, a farm co-op, small community-based projects. When I interviewed waste experts in 1997 for the first edition of my book, they all insisted that composting had failed miserably in LAC and that there was not a single large composting project they could name. I found this difficult to accept, since composting seemed like a natural for LAC's conditions, there's a wealth of (often free) information & technical help on the subject, and it can be quite cheap to do. But by-and-large my sanitary- and environmental engineer friends were right -- municipal projects begun in the 1970s and 1980s had all shut down. Only tiny "pilot projects" in rural areas and small towns could be found here and there, and some of these did not look self-sustaining.

I was therefore excited when asked in 1999 to sit in on a meeting with city authorities in San Francisco de Macoris, whose mayor had cleaned up the city streets & markets and vowed to solve the city's waste disposal problem by, among other things, launching a city-backed compositing project. Other people at the meeting included people from GTZ, the German technical assistance agency that does considerable consulting on waste issues in LAC. Unfortunately as fate would have it my family moved back to the US shortly thereafter, so I did not get to sit in on subsequent brainstorming & discussion sessions. So I don't know all the why's & wherefore's of it, but ultimately SFM decided not to proceed with the municipal composting project.

When I researched the second edition of my book in 2001, I did manage to find one large-scale project running & doing so with some mild success. Little progess in 4-5 years...

Here's what I said in the 2002 Edition:
The regional deficit in use of composting is more difficult to account for. The high organic content and humidity of most of the region?s MSW, the ambient temperature in most countries during the year, and the continuing need for fertilizer of the region?s still prominent agricultural community would all seem to suggest favorable conditions for widespread practice of composting. Many composting projects initiated in the 1970s and 1980s failed miserably (in some cases, such as those in Acapulco and Medellin, the composting facilities bought from foreign suppliers were never put to use). A thorough analysis of why the efforts failed has not been made, but most local experts blame poor quality compost, lack of market development and consumer education (in this case, of farmers, gardeners and landscapers), poor pricing and lack of a long-term commitment from the authority investing in the project. Some composting facilities currently exist in Brazil (notably in S?o Paulo), and small-scale community projects have been tried by bilateral aid agencies and NGOs in Central America, Ecuador and Peru.

My question is, is composting only viable in a country such as the DR when it is done on a small scale? Or can some entrepreneur, company, co-op or allied group manage to get a larger scale project going that is self-sustaining -- i.e., pays for its production & marketing costs, plus some for reinvesting & maybe even some in profit (sure would encourage others to emulate them!)?

What do you guys think? Hey sjh, you're our resident "Gentleman Farmer" ;) , any thoughts on this topic?

BTW, anyone interested in web-based info sources & contacts on composting practices & issues?

Best Regards,
Keith :glasses:
 

sjh

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I compost on my farm but it is EXTREMELY difficult.

First collect all the organic matter and put it in a pile below the cow corral where the manure runs into it. Then sit and wait.

Now comes the hard part. Fight with every dominican who comes on the farm from burning it. "whats that pile doing there, you should burn it" I have this discussion twice a week it seems. They insist that is must be burned.
 

sjh

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I forgot to add my 2 cents about worm farming.

I am sure it is possible and a great idea. If someone has a source for red wrigglers I will get some and try it out on a small scale (3 or 4 cubic meters)

I would be worried about red ant infestations. They could eat the whole crop.
 

Chirimoya

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Dec 9, 2002
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A worm widow writes

I have a confession to make. My husband has other women. Hundreds of them, living in a trough at the bottom of the garden. This attempted joke works better in Spanish, where the word for worms - lombrices - is feminine.

Only those who have met worm-culture enthusiasts will know what I mean with these allusions to an errant husband. Forget football, golf and the usual suspects. The worms fire them with enthusiam bordering on indecent passion, it has them frisking out to the garden in the early hours of the morning to check on their 'girls', and you only have to see the look on their faces when describing their harem to unsuspecting strangers.

We first heard about this method through a friend, and then by coincidence found out that a cousin of my husband's has a worm farm near Villa Mella. Mr Chiri went to visit his cousin one day, and came back with a handful of the floozies, and thus began the love affair.

We set up two troughs, one here in the city and another at my mother-in-law's in the campo. What you do is make a bed for the hussies using earth and dry leaves, and drill some holes round the sides and base (we used the inside shell of an old fridge) for ventilation and drainage. Time to set the jezebels free. All you need to do to satisfy their needs is to give them decomposing organic household waste and sprinkle some water over them a couple of times a day. Such a far cry from a demanding wife, so who could blame him?

The delicate little temptresses need to be housed away from sunlight, and the trough needs to be covered but not sealed.

They produce 'humus' which is the best organic fertiliser in the universe as we know it. No artificially synthesised product comes anywhere near to producing the same results.

These brazen strumpets consume vast amounts of the aforementioned household organic waste. I have a small bucket in the kitchen into which all food waste and some paper goes. We now generate about a third as much rubbish as before the little ladies came to stay. I used to have to take out the bin every day whether it was full or not, because of the smell of the organic waste in the heat. These days we empty the organic bucket into the trough about once a day and the rest of the rubbish goes out every third or fourth day.

This is also healthier in that the kitchen and outside bins no longer seem to attract insects or rodents, as the refuse consists of plastics, metals and some glass (although we recycle most glass via a 'botellero'). I have definitely had fewer or no sightings of mice, rats or cockroaches since the seductresses came to stay, inside or outside the house. The ant problem has also been reduced significantly.

The whole worm culture set up is inexpensive and easy to manage. There is sometimes a slight 'farm smell' but nothing too pungent or offensive. So far none of the sirens has escaped so no danger of them terrorising the neighbourhood.

This is something that can be installed on a small, large or medium scale. It works for a household - we use the humus in the garden. It has more potential for a small holding or at community level, and at a larger scale can be commercialised.

Chiri
 
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Pib

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Jan 1, 2002
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What if I live in an appartment building?

We have decided that we are definitely urban dwellers. We don't want a house and have no plans to buy a house in the next 15 years or so. So... can urbanites also hire the help of worms? We have a little "backyard", but it has concrete floor. Is there any "leakage"? Is the smell offensive? Can it be done in a really small scale? What is the minimum of space we need?

After reading Chiri's post I am now very interested in the subject (although I have heard of this before her post is the most thorough description I've heard so far). I also separate the glass containers (and keep most and re-use them in the kitchen to save stuff in the fridge) and try to use the least plastic possible, but organic waste has always been the bulk of it.
 

Keith R

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Terrific post, Chiri! Thanks much! Not only very informative, but I love the humorous metaphor. Keep those contributions coming! ;)

It's amazing to me how many terrific writers we have among the DR1 boards! Besides Chiri, see Tom F's post on solar & you'll see another fine example of what I mean! And just wait until Cleef tackles outdoor adventures! :cool:

Chiri, maybe your husband, Jaime, Luke (ihtown) & Stephen (sjh) should form a worm enthusiasts club for the DR. You might find that there's much more of them in the DR than you suspect! :p
 

jsizemore

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worms

I am no expert on the tropical but as kid in good old West Virginia I used to raise worms under my rabbit cages and all I had to do was make sure I kept the whole bed moist and provide dranage. The rabbit dropings provided to food and the worms kept my chickens fat. For me the best part was I did not shovel rabit poop. I harvested worms for bait. Easy day.
If an 8 year old could do it I think anyone can.
John
 

Keith R

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Other Useful Links on Worm Composting...

Chiri,
There's another useful link in Spanish on worm composting at http://lombricultura.freeservers.com/

Also, there's a pretty good FAQ in Spanish on the subject at http://www.lombricesrojas.com.ar/preguntas_mas_frecuentes_sobre_l.htm

As for English, there's a pretty good FAQ at http://www.oldgrowth.org/compost/wormfaq.html

While in English it's hard to beat the WormWoman site, this one I'm told (I'm not the vermicomposting expert :confused: ) is pretty useful: http://gnv.fdt.net/~windle/

There's evidently even several online publications devoted to the subject, such as" Worm Digest" http://www.wormdigest.org

Best Regards,
Keith
 

Chirimoya

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Dec 9, 2002
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I just edited my post, I had said "sprinkle water a couple of hours a day" when it should have been "a couple of times a day".

Chiri
 

caco

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Dec 3, 2003
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Congratulations, Keith, the posting on the new environment forum has been more than a big success. About worm composting I have all the contacts to get the worms and any help for those who would like to start at the lowest possible cost. The worms are for sale in Villa Mella at one DR peso each. With one thousand worms you could start a mid size operation
because in less than two monthe they will triple. The rest of the
stuff that is needed is manure for startesr and a box with some type of a cover. It is best to have a good box because the worms easily escape and to protect them from birds, ants, rats etc?
I am ready to personally help anyone or thru email jaimem@gbon.net
I have not been available before because of a very bad cold I caught last month and only now just recovering.
 
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Hillbilly

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This I am enjoying immensly

CACO: YOu provide a hilarious scenario of a few red worms peeping out of an old Icebox shell, looking around, and saying: "OK guys, the coast is clear!"

Are escaping worms a big problem? Seems to me there in a conundrum: If you have holes for drainage, you have excape routes for Harry Worm and his Gang to escape through...In other words, the "worm turns."

Anyway, I am happy to see that worms have finally brought Caco out of his "hole" hehehe

I think this might be a good project for schools....

HB
 
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Dolores1

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Definitely this is a program for schools. In November attended the Slow Food International Congress in Napoli. The US Slow Food organization (see http://www.slowfoodusa.org/) has announced a nationwide push to get small farms going in public and private schools nationwide. Same thrust as when there was a nationwide movement in the US to get physical ed going in schools. The US has a big problem in that one in every three children is either diabetic or a candidate to being a diabetic. This is attributed to the distancing of the population with real food and the takeover of school cafeterias by companies such as McDonalds, etc. The Slow Food program wants to start the farms so that the children can have an encounter with real food and the farms may eventually begin to supply the cafeterias. Note that Alice Waters, the president of Slow Food USA (also appointed Vice President International Slow Food in the Napoli convention), owns Chez Panisse restaurant that was named Best Restaurant in America by Gourmet magazine in 2001, so this is mainstream Americana. Read about her work at http://www.chezpanisse.com/alice.html
This is about educating the taste of people, and especially the new generations, so they can make choices.

Having started at home with worm composting of our own wastes (see post by Caco), and planting our herbs and timidly planting tomatoes, peppers, salad greens, we feel more people should be doing this. We live in an apartment on a 6th floor and use a small area of our terrace for this, planting in containers. My husband and I head the local chapter of Slow Food in the Dominican Republic and our plan is to take up the US initiative and do a pilot program in our son's school in Santo Domingo, and then take what we learn to be replicated by others around the country. Anyone who wants to try a pilot program anywhere else, is welcome to go for it. While the US program will need to be adapted to work in the DR, lots of what they are doing will apply here, too. Anyone interested, just email me directly to work on this pilot program together. Everytime I pass by the empty dirt lots at the public schools around the country, I get to asking why these could not be planted. So here is a challenge to do something about it!