In 1992 Jack Chambers, a commercial airline pilot, established a five-acre worm farm and began marketing earthworms and castings produced from dairy manure and, occasionally, alfalfa. What is it like to operate a worm farm and to manage the day-to-day activities? What factors do such things as climate, geographic location and proximity to markets have to do with the success or failure of such an enterprise? We asked Jack to take us on a tour of his facility and to share his experiences as he continues to shape his operation, now positioned to noticeably influence wine grape production in California.
Within this 34-minute DVD, you’ll see how sprinkler irrigation is used over outdoor and covered windrows of earthworms that process dairy manure. Jack has a passion for growing things such as peppers, Yukon Gold potatoes, shallots, Swiss chard, tomatoes, and a variety of flowers. He has planted these and other items throughout his facility where improved soil fertility has made a remarkable impact on the taste and quality of his produce. He markets his castings to local vineyards, gardeners and landscapers while selling earthworms nationwide and locally to schools, Master Composters, and other customers.
The trade journal BioCycle featured Sonoma Worm Farm in its September 1996 article, The Business of Vermicomposting. Jack was also interviewed in the April 1997 issue of Casting Call. Over the past eight years he has steadily built his operation into one of California’s best examples of running a profitable vermiculture facility.
Viewers are told how new earthworm beds are seeded and fed, and why Jack prefers his particular system of drip irrigation. The newest experimental bin at Sonoma Worm Farm was created to achieve maximum earthworm biomass through a regular and consistent feeding and watering regime. Jack explains the reasons for preparing the bedding material used to ship earthworms that ensures their safe arrival to the customer.
More than anything else, viewers can catch the enthusiasm and commitment of this worm farmer who believes in his system, his products and in the value of worm farming as a means of impacting horticulture and agriculture. This video is ideal for someone contemplating whether to enter the vermiculture business on a relatively modest scale. Other than his mechanical earthworm harvester, Jack has invested little in equipment, but has plans to expand. The novice or would-be worm farmer can gain considerably from this experienced and “part-time” operator who still runs a profitable business. The experienced worm farmer can also learn from this video by comparing notes with someone who has learned over several years of practice. Persons interested in marketing castings to various user groups will learn from Jack’s experience the wide variety of potential customers that exist.