HYDE PARK – Scott Kent raises worms, not for fishing, but for their poop, or castings.
Kent said he is interested in building a self-sustainable food system. With global warming and shrinking water supplies for agriculture, the 22-year-old wants to have a system in place to continue to grow food.
“If we don’t have food, it doesn’t matter what you know,” Kent said. “What I am doing is making worm compost as a high potent fertilizer to boost the quality of plant production.”
He goes to restaurants and picks up their organic food waste (fruit, vegetables and coffee grounds) then brings them to his Hyde Park facility and feeds it to his worms. What would normally go to the trash he uses to feed his worms.
He spends about 20 hours a week feeding and separating the castings from the worms. In the process, Kent has learned a lot about the way worms process their food and what organic food works best.
Kent stays away from feeding his worms dairy and meat, they don’t digest it well, but they do like ground up eggshells.
“My worms eat and digest the food and process it into rich organic fertilizer,” he said. “Worms don’t have teeth, they have gizzards like birds.”
Worm mouths are muscular and strong, they grind up their food, which then moves into the intestine.
“About four years ago, I was looking at aquaponics, a system that combines raising aquatic animals with cultivating plants in their water,” he said. “I came across worm composting and thought it might be worth pursuing.”
He was hooked and began to do the research to start his worm farm.
And although it sounds quite dirty, Kent’s farm is confined to plastic totes.
Kent said worm castings are packed with minerals that can boost plant growth. The minerals are immediately available to the plant because everything is already broken down, so the plant can absorb them with ease.
He started out on a small scale, but it grew. Right now, Kent has filled some 20 totes with worms, hoping that by March he’ll have enough product to make his efforts worthwhile. That’s when he plans to start selling the byproduct to gardeners at a higher level.
Kent said he uses two specific worms: the African Night Crawler and the Red Wiggler. Regular night crawlers found in local yards process their food differently and won’t work for Kent’s purposes.
Kent’s favorite, the African Night Crawler, is a hardy reproducer. The castings are larger than other worms and it’s also a hearty eater. They must be raised in a warm environment.
The Utah State University Bio-Chemistry sophomore started using large plastic totes stacked on shelves.
“I put an ad on Facebook, I haven’t pushed it very much yet, and still sold some,” Kent said.“I know there is a market for it.”
He said worm casting are sweet, they can do good. One gallon of castings can benefit four gallons of soil.
The African Night Crawler could also be used for fishing, but Kent said he can’t come to grips with seeing them killed and skewered to catch fish.
“I get kind of attached to them,” he said.