Make Money with Red Worms and Vermicompost

Red Worms, also known as red wigglers, are prized by both gardeners and fishermen. Fishermen use them as bait and often pay up to $25/lb for them. Gardeners use red worms for composting and use the compost that they create, known as worm castings or vermicompost, as a garden soil amendment or as an ingredient in potting mix. Worm castings are often sold for between $1 and $6 a pound, depending on the quantity purchased.

There is a considerable amount of research being done regarding the special plant growth-promoting properties of vermicompost and the results show that worm castings really do help plants grow more quickly and develop into healthier plants than they would have in the absence of vermicompost. Accordingly, more and more gardeners are buying worm castings and they need someone to buy them from. So, raising red wiggler worms is opportunity to make some money in your backyard, or even your basement. The worms are quiet, don't make a mess, are easy to contain and raise and can be kept in any shady, cool spot, indoors or out.

The materials cost for your new worm enterprise will be very low. All you will need to get started is

  1. A container to keep the worms in. This can be almost anything, as long as it won't disintegrate under moist conditions. Plastic bins of any size will work well as long as you drill some drainage holes into them. Wood bins work well too, as long as they aren't made from pressure treated lumber. A bin with a lot of surface area (large and shallow as opposed to small and deep) is ideal.
  2. Bedding for the worms. The worms should be bedded in a plant-based material that can hold moisture. Moistened newspaper is commonly used for this purpose but materials such as straw can work well too.
  3. A source of food for the worms. Red wigglers love to eat many of the same things that humans do. Melon and other fruits, eggs, tomatoes and other soft vegetables are some of their favorite foods. Possible sources for their food supply include your own kitchen scraps, pre-consumer restaurant food waste, and waste produce that your local grocery store was not able to sell before it went bad. Red worms love rotting and bruised produce!
  4. Your worms. You will need at least a few pounds of worms to get your business started. Make sure that you are buying the right type of worms--Eisenia fetida is the scientific name for the type of worms you want to buy. Don't buy "red wigglers" from a bait shop to get started: you could be getting just about any kind of worm under the sun. Buy your "starter worms" from a reputable worm breeder. They are easy to ship and many breeders advertise in gardening publications or online, so you should have no problem finding a source of healthy worms.

Once your worms have settled in and have been multiplying and making compost, it will be time to harvest worms and compost to sell. Unless you have a fancy, mechanized worm bin that harvests the compost for you (yes, they do exist), you will have to do this by hand. Without going into too much detail, the harvesting process can be slightly messy and is usually tedious. Just be patient and keep in mind that it will be almost impossible to get every worm out of the compost that you intend to sell.

Once you have harvested your extra worms and compost, it's time to sell them. Ideally, while the worms were hard at work for you, you were busy contacting retail outlets for your product. These can include

  1. Bait shops and convenience stores near popular fishing locations. They often sell packaged red worms. Make sure that you establish what quantities and type of containers they want the worms to come in and pack your worms according to their specifications.
  2. Bait vending machine owners (or buy and manage your own bait vending machines). These machines are often located near heavily fished lakes and streams and usually have the owner's contact information on them. Contact the owner and ask if he's interested in buying your worms. Again, you will have to package them to his specifications and deliver the agreed upon quantities of worms on time!
  3. Local garden centers. Independently owned or co-op-owned garden centers often carry locally produced products. Approach them and ask what type of worm products they are interested in purchasing. Garden centers often sell bagged worm castings and may even be interested in selling worm bin starter kits for homeowner use. If you can come up with a cute kit that is attractively packaged, you might have a winning product (and a successful business) on your hands!
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