By Ari Breakstone, Urban Adamah Fellow
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization has just come out with a report urging a surprising change to Western diets – making sure insects are on your dinner menu. This embrace of entomophagy (the intentional consumption of insects) may seem tré icky and gross at first, but the UN makes a convincing case that we should get over the psychological barriers and chow down on some tasty crawlers.
-Insects are very nutritious and great sources of protein, fat and various minerals our bodies need – Mmmhmmm!
-Many species are “extremely efficient” producers of protein. Crickets, for example, are estimated to require 1/12 the amount of feed to produce the same amount of protein than cows require – that’s a helluva lot less waste!
-The space requirements of insects are orders of magnitude less than sheep, cattle and pigs – yay, more farmland and nature preserves!
-Most species produce less ammonia and other destructive greenhouse gases – the atmosphere thanks you!
So many people and cultures are already clued into the amazing power of bugs that 2 billion (that’s billion with a “b”) humans regularly incorporate insects into their diet. Won’t you help to save our world by coming aboard and joining the bug-gravy train??
Please note: we are not recommending you buy our worms to eat them – they are way better utilized breaking down food scraps than being food themselves. But if shit has gone down and you’re staring at an empty pantry and an empty wallet, we won’t judge… but we will pass the salt.
See the UN Report and a BBC article for more tasty deets.
Ever wonder how our plucky and useful red wiggler worms get down and dirty to produce the next generation? Fear not, Urban Worm is here to provide the answers and satisfy your… curiousity.
Red Wiggler worms are hermaphrodites – they have both male and female sexual organs. When the time is right for lovin’, two worms intertwine and exchange sperm into eachother’s clitellums, the thicker bands which contain the egg sacs. Several eggs are fertilized in each worm’s clitellum and are secreted in a cocoon. So each time the worms get lucky, you get even luckier, as they both become pregnant and can have multiple offspring! Barry White music is recommended, but not required, to increase reproductive capacity. Do you believe in miracles?
See the sexy video below of earthworms in action. Rest assured, wigglers doing the nasty are very similar.
Last Friday 4/12/13, the worm team arrived at Manzanita Seed Elementary School in Oakland, right as school was getting in. Somehow carrying 3 worm bins and lbs of worms, teaching materials, and 3 bunches of bananas they walked in through a rush of children to meet Ms. Tapia and Ms. Superfine – two first grade teachers. What lay ahead: 3 consecutive kid friendly worm composting workshops to classes of 25 first graders; two in Spanish, one in English.
It was smashing success! The team covered the importance of composting food waste, how to set up a worm bin, and future instructions of how to care for their new “class pets.” The best part for the worm team was seeing how much excitement and care the students had for their worms. Our next kid-friendly workshop is at the San Francisco Library on 04/24. Stay tuned!
PS. We’re going to be updated our “Kid Workshop” page soon with our offered workshops and teaching materials!
Were your hackles raised last week with the East Bay’s out of control winds? Ours were. Urban Worm was set back a little both last week and this week with some over-the-top infrastructure damage. Not to worry, we were back on our feet in no time, thanks to some quick thinking and crafty handy work by our glorious gang of Urban Adamah fellows.
Dear loyal blog followers,
We owe you an apology. You came rely upon our regular blogs for sources of worm knowledge, insight, and small business know-how, and we mysteriously vanished around the new year. Our excuse(!), and no, it’s not a good one, comes from us losing one of the members of the worm team at that time. DON’T WORRY, Ash is fine – she simply was offered a different job as the business manager within our greater non-profit organization.
With this transition, Hayley’s and my respective plates were full and tasks started to drip off. Blogs we’re one of those. We’ve now taken the end of winter to regroup and are ready to move forward full blog-ahead! Stay tuned for more worm facts (we’re learning a TON about beneficial microbes right now, so expect related posts on those in the coming days), and other details about the Urban Worm life.
And a last tribute to Ash and all the hard work she put into the website and doing the accounting work behind the scenes – her new business profile:
It turns out urban farmers like us aren’t the only ones getting excited about worm composting. Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina has recently launched a $1.2 million worm composting project to handle the airport’s daunting waste problem. Now their landfill contributions are down 70%.
Want to know more? Check out the NPR article here.
There’s only a few days left of our holiday sale! Are you looking to start a worm bin, mulch your fruit trees or revitalize your soil so you’re ready for spring? You have until our next worm workshop, January 6th, to take advantage of our low prices.
- 1 pound red wigglers: $15–normally $22
- 40 pound bag of vermicompost: $20–normally $25
- 1 wheelbarrow of vermicompost: $50–normally $60 ($10 discount if YOU load YOUR own bags!)
- 1 cubic yard: $150–normally $175 (Delivery available!)
Worm bins and vermicompost are an important part of long-term sustainability in your house and garden. They reduce the amount of food waste being sent to landfills, the fossil fuel being used to transport and process waste, and the resources needed to produce and import soil amendments into your garden. Worms are an easy way to fight waste and global climate change, and are an excellent teaching tool for children. It also offers a unique opportunity for urban dwelling folks to compost their waste (even in their tiny apartments) without producing a stinky-garbage smell. In about 1 cubic foot of space you can cut your trash output by at least 30%! The resulting worm castings are much more powerful as a soil amendment than traditional compost. And let’s face it, worms are just fun!
Vermicompost, our mix of castings and hot-composted organic waste, is a high-quality compost–it improves soil structure, moisture-holding capacity and plant root environment. But it goes further. Because of its diverse microorganism population, our vermicompost improves cat-ion exchange capacity, allowing nutrients to be more available to plants. Vermicompost inoculates the soil, fighting pests and disease naturally, throughout the life of the plant. Vermicompost is especially important in nutrient-limited environments such as planter boxes and potted plants, where every bit of nutrition needs to be available to the plant, and where soil depletion is rapid.
Not convinced? Come to our special workshop The Real Dirt: Soil Health and Science for Gardeners taught by soil specialist Paul Holowko on January 13th at Urban Adamah Farm to find out just how important the invisible universe of soil is to the health and longevity of your garden.
As our most avid readers may recall, a couple of months ago Zach had a chance encounter with a guy named Paul at a nursery. Paul, it turns out, hosts Gardening Rhythms, a show that depicts a natural method of gardening using observation, innovation, common sense and an understanding of the practical use of microbiology. This show teaches you how to garden without using chemicals and fertilizers, and it is designed to give you tips to become a savvy home gardener. He saw a need for a different kind of gardening show.
“Gardening shows have become saturated with commercials for chemical products and pitches for unnecessary gardening tools. Today’s gardening shows simply consist of pavers, barbecues, wood decks, yard furniture and table umbrellas… I wanted to make a TV show that you have to watch over and over again to get all of the information on soil care, ecology, and planting methods. I wanted people to go away thinking something new (about gardening).”
At Urban Worm, we’re always excited to hang out with people who know that gardening is about soil care and plant experiments, not clover-less lawn. In the years since Paul began this project, he has covered an incredible range of topics. Want to know the best plants for a California garden? Paul covers it. Curious about home water catchment? Paul’s got your back on everything from berms to roof tops. Looking to improve the health of your garden organically? Paul knows what’s up.
And if that last one really tickles your fancy but the size of your screen is getting you down, fear not! Paul is coming to Berkeley. On January 13th, Paul will be presenting The Real Dirt: Soil Health and Science for Gardeners at out site, Urban Adamah. The workshop will cover the different living organisms in the soil, what each does to enhance garden productivity and how to feed and proliferate these microorganisms for specific results, using compost teas. Paul will talk about how legumes partner with bacteria to fix nitrogen, how fungi partner with trees and other plants to uptake nutrients and a bit about the fungal life cycle. Finally, you will have the opportunity to mix up samples of your own soil and identify who is living there using the microscope. Paul is offering up a wealth of information and inspiration to deepen your knowledge and appreciation of soil as the most important player in our garden.
Did you just get chills? I know. Me too. Wait no more friends, sign up here through our partner, the Institute of Urban Homesteading. The cost is sliding scale $45-75. Paul is generously donating his time so all proceeds go to support the work of Urban Worm and IUH. He’s a champ.
(510) 649-1595 x305
My typical morning goes something like this. Alarm goes off at 6:50. I snooze 3 times and am on my feet around 7:17. Teeth are brushed, bladder is emptied, body is clothed and I’m out the door by 7:24. I get into the car still half asleep, and turn off NPR as I have recently decided I want to start the day with a little bit of silence. But yesterday, just as I was about to hit the off button, I hear the mention of “food waste.” I was hooked.
Morning Edition did a short and sweet little segment, shedding some light on how much food waste is produced in the restaurant industry. According to Jean Schwab, Senior Analyst in the Waste Division at the Environmental Protection Agency, food waste is the number one material currently entering landfills and fifteen percent of that food comes from restaurants.
There seem to be a few key reasons leading to such a dramatic amount of waste. First, chefs are much more concerned with quality and presentation of the food than with food waste (clearly driven by consumer expectations as well.) They would much rather cut off a blemish than serve something that didn’t look perfect. Second, the culture of waste is so deeply ingrained in the food industry that kitchen staff often don’t think before putting something in the garbage. And third, on the consumer end of the spectrum, much of the food that we order ends up in the trash because we leave it on our plates. In fact, on average half a pound of food waste is created per meal, taking into account the waste produced both in the kitchen and by the consumer.
The segment concludes that significant training and education is needed if we want to change the behavior and mindset of the restaurant industry – from changing the expectations of the consumer to prioritizing waste reduction in the back of the house.
It’s now almost bedtime and I lie here wondering, as I often do, how we can further our reach so worms can turn more of this “waste into gold.” I just need to keep reminding myself that change happens slowly. Every time a new customer buys worms it means they will be diverting food waste from their homes and likely educating many of their friends on the subject. Though there is still much to be done to reduce the amount of waste generated in the first place, I’m going to bed feeling hopeful. Goodnight
At our monthly workshop on the farm last Sunday, an attendee asked whether we recommended using burlap sacks in a worm bin – specifically as a cover for the top of the food and bedding below the actual lid to the bin. At first, I balked at this suggestion. Co-worm team member, Ash and I once spent a good two hours pulling hundreds of tenaciously entwined worms out from a large pile of old burlap sacks. As a worm farm with a goal of easily harvesting worms from our piles, burlap sacks on top posed a nuisance. But for a personal worm bin, a burlap sack “blanket” on top will work great. Here’s why:
1) It will keep moisture in. Because burlap is porous it will allow air into your bin, while the added insulation will keep too much water from evaporating out of your bin, especially during the hotter months.
2) Your worms will breed like crazy. Worms like finding little nooks and crannies to breed. Like us, they prefer the privacy of dark cozy spaces! The weave in a burlap sack are perfect for that and if you put one in your bin, your worms will respond with lots of babies!
3) Food for your worms. Burlap is made from a raw material called “jute” and worms will eat it as it decomposes. Help give your bin another aspect of food diversity with a punch of jute.
4) Free waste stream diversion. Go to your local coffee shop and see if they have leftover burlap sacks from the beans. Taking them for your worm bin will help you and your bin while diverting a decomposable material from its path to the landfill.
5) Great chicken food. Have chickens and want to give them some living protein to pick at? Just put a sack over your bin, wait a few days for worms to weave themselves into it and throw it in the coop. Your chickens will thank you!
Are you already using a burlap sack? Email us a picture so we can put it on the site!
NOTE – the burlap sack is meant to cover the food and bedding inside your bin and not to act as the lid for your bin. It does not provide rain or rodent protection!