Category Archives: Vermicomposting

Naples-area compost operation growing and thriving (article)

Original article found here: http://www.mpnnow.com/news/20161128/naples-area-compost-operation-growing-and-thriving

A small backyard compost turned into a rich farming operation in Prattsburgh that is keeping Naples-area food waste out of the landfill

Al Zappetella makes weekly rounds through Naples to pick up buckets of kitchen scraps. Barrels of discarded onion skins, banana peels, coffee grounds, egg shells, apple cores and other food waste — along with leaves, yard trimmings and other organic waste — get trucked a few miles down the road to Prattsburgh.

Zappetella has been doing the free pickups for a few years now. That is, after he and partner Celeste Arlie realized they were outgrowing their small, backyard compost pile in Naples. Family, friends and neighbors began adding to the pile. It cut everyone’s household waste by more than half.

Then, as Arlie posted on the Facebook page set up to get the word out, they went bigger: “In an effort to make the world a little bit greener we wanted to bring composting to our community.”

Now, at their farm on Route 53 in Prattsburgh, where Zappetella brings the weekly haul from 12 households and several Naples businesses, the compost operation is thriving. Food scrap pickups include from the local grocery store, Rennoldson’s Market, and restaurants such as Roots Cafe and The Grainery among other stops. Prattsburgh Central School is also on board, and Zappetella hopes the Naples school district will join, too.

From inside the barn, Zappetella shows a number of 32-square-foot beds, where the compost soil is in various stages of development. He started about four years ago with 2 pounds of worms. They multiply like crazy, he said. The worms recycle the food scraps and other organic material by eating the scraps, which become compost as they pass through the worm’s body. Compost exits the worm through its tail end — basically, it’s the worm poo that does it, Zappetella said, pulling up a fistful of the rich mix.

Outside the barn, Zappetella pointed to the surrounding undeveloped hillsides from the family farm that runs on both sides of Route 53. “We want to use all the resources,” he said. A few of the farm’s 30 or so chickens pecked at a fresh pile of food scraps — it’s OK that meat and bones are in the scraps because the chickens eat it, he said. With help from his sons and other family, Zappetella said they are able to keep the place going and look to grow.

In all, along with the chickens, they have 14 goats and 7 Icelandic sheep that all live under the watchful eye of Loli, an Anatolian shepherd who guards the place. “She’s fearless,” said Zappetella. Before they got her, he noted, bears raided the farm and broke into their beehives.

Four of the 20 acres are fenced in, and a new barn is going up across the field. Eventually, they would like to open a roadside stand to sell their goat-milk products and other farm produce.

The compost makes rich fertilizer for growing their fruits and vegetables and they sell “16th-inch fine-sifted worm castings,” he said.

With nearly half of all the waste that lands in landfills from food and other organic material, the push is on put it to use. Ontario County is behind the effort, with its move to reduce landfill waste by at least 60 percent within the next nine years. The contract with landfill manager Casella Waste Systems Inc. expires in 2028, when many say they want the county to shut down the facility in the town of Seneca. A big part of the effort involves the county and its municipalities and businesses working together, while individuals also take the lead.

“Waste is a lack of imagination,” said Keith Turner of Canandaigua, quoting the owner of a local worm farm. Keith and his wife, Sue, collect coffee grounds from Finger Lakes Coffee Roasters in Farmington for compost.

“So this is trying to have an imagination,” Keith said.

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I couldn’t have said it better myself.  Waste is definitely a lack of imagination.

This is inspiring!  While I don’t have a barn, or much of a yard- I wonder if I could collect my neighbor’s food scraps, too.

I think that proactive composting is going to continue picking up momentum as it becomes correctly perceived as a necessity.  Whether you live in the city or out in the country, whether you’re aware of environmental issues or not, I have this hunch that composting will become something that brings people together.

I know how sappy that sounds, but think about it- we’re all people, we all defecate in the water supply and bury our food in landfills instead of returning it all to the soil so we can grow food to eat.

Also- 1/16″ worm castings are NICE.  That’s some fine stuff.

Worms After a Fresh Rain

worm-can-1

 

worm-can-2

I’m curious how long these guys will stick around…it’s October now, and the temperatures are starting to drop at night just a bit.

They love coming up around the edges of the trash can composter after a good rain.  Love it!

Looking to compost indoors through the winter?    Click here to learn more.

Summer Worm Composting: So Far, So Good

I’ve been enjoying the Worm Inn Mega this summer with no issues, and it’s simply due to having ample cover material.

The Worm Inn Mega is big enough for there to be plenty of cover material to begin with…you can really load it up to prevent flying pests and also keep the worms busy.

I actually have a hard time filling it up because the worms are just mowing through the material- Capacity really makes the whole process a lot easier.

I just realized that you might not have heard about this system…

Have you seen the Worm Inn Mega yet?  Check out my dorky review below for more information… this is my top recommendation for those of you out there looking to compost at home but lack the outdoor space.

Vermicomposting made simple.

Click here to learn more about the Worm Inn Mega system.

 

Is Indoor Composting a Good Idea?

After creating my video, I was shown a video of an indoor teracotta pot composting system in India that truly works…she’s a pro!

Check it out here:

While my video was referring specifically to a full sized compost bin or compost tumbler being set up indoors, which would be a mess… she’s circumvented that with the stacking kambha system.  I’m very tempted to re-create this system.

Give composting your best shot through the winter season- have some fun and get creative!

Thanks for watching!

A Brief Look at Different Vermicomposts

My vermicompost never looks as good as his does!

I tend to have stuff resembling the middle bin, but not even that fine.  I don’t tend to let mine cure…until now.

Now that we’re going into the winter (worm season), I’m going to really focus on coming up with some great stuff by the time spring comes around.

Bentley makes it look easy, doesn’t it?  If you ever have any questions on vermicomposting, be sure to check out redwormcomposting.com .  This dude lives it!

Do Compost Piles Need to be Watered?

I just got back from a two week trip, and the first thing I thought about was ‘how are my compost systems doing?’

It ends up that things are pretty good.

It hasn’t rained here much, so I added water to my compost bins.

This is a new behavior for me- it’s normally stated as unnecessary to water compost systems, but I think this mostly applies to poorly designed compost systems that don’t have adequate aeration, therefore becoming that damp and smelly nightmare we’ve heard of but probably haven’t experienced.

My new trash can composting system (seen below) was looking pretty dried out.

The key reason: air holes.

trash can composter

This isn’t a big deal, and I’d rather have this situation than a soggy mess (not that that can’t be cured quickly as well).

I dumped in a full watering can’s worth before any moisture started coming out of the side holes… that’s saying something about how much water is craved by compost piles.

After watering my 2 compost bins and the trash can composter, I checked on the Worm Inn Mega system.

I was worried about them going two weeks without enough food or moisture, but luckily it worked out.

I simply gave them an extra large serving of food scraps and a fresh layer of new damp cardboard bedding before leaving on the trip.

Two weeks is a while for them though; as expected, they were all hunkered down in the middle of the system, so I made myself a huge kale/carrot/apple/ginger juice and gave them the remains.

The Worm Inn Mega springs back to life!

The extra space that this system provides over the original model came in handy for sure.

Are you composting yet?

I feel like the summer time is the most fun time for hot composting, but it’s also the most ridden with bugs if you’re not on top of your game.

Either way, get started!  It’s too easy.

The Worms Say Hi

worm inn mega wormsI just cleared out the remainder of my produce in the fridge and made a kale/carrot/apple/ginger/cucumber/spirulina/cardboard smoothie.

Over the last few months, I’ve refined what I give the worms to mostly juicer waste and a fair bit of dampened cardboard as a cover material.

I’ve definitely seen them become more plump and/or healthy looking in general.

I got worried for a bit when I was focusing on my compost toilet efforts a bit obsessively through the winter to ensure my pile cooked through the near zero degree temperatures.

Now that the pile is killing off every pathogen in sight by maintaining a constant 120-130F, I can give the worms their deserved attention.

Since I neglected them, I’m just keeping it simple with juicer waste… I feel like it definitely revitalized the population.

Beforehand, I was throwing all kinds of crap at them such as wax paper and other paper products that most likely had a plastic liner embedded in them.

Of course, the worms didn’t like that junk and hunkered down far away from the stuff and didn’t appear healthy.

Material size/surface area definitely matters.  Eliminating plastic content really makes them happy, too.

I’m a pretty boring eater- I’ve eaten roughly five different things in rotation all the time for as long as I can remember.

I don’t know if the worms hate me for it, but I’m keeping their diet equally boring and watching them stay healthy instead of throwing curves and feeling weird about it.

Welcome back, worms!

…and if you’re not familiar with the Worm Inn Mega, check it out here.  It’s the most forgiving, easy-to-use worm system you’ll ever find…