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Red Wrigglers Bring Success to Worm Farm E-mail
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Saturday, 19 August 2006
Red Wrigglers Bring Success to Worm Farm



The Olympian, Olympia, Wash.

It's all about the worms - 20,000 pounds of them - at Yelm Earth Worm & Castings Farm.

The countless numbers of eisenia fetida, commonly known as red wrigglers, do yeoman's work at one of the largest worm farms in the country, and the largest west of the Rockies.

Working like tiny plows, they turn, aerate, mix and eat their way through tons of dairy cow and horse manure each year, eliminating pathogens and boosting the number and diversity of micro-organisms, nutrients and enzymes as they consume one-half to two times their weight in organic material each day.

"They don't sleep, they just eat," said Hunt McLean who has co-owned the business with Kelan Moynagh since August.

Worm Casting

The end product is called worm casting, which is the digested material or excrement from worms. The organically certified, odor-free product is a soil's - and a gardener's - best friend.

"Anybody that uses worm castings gets fantastic results," Moynagh said, reaffirming something 19th century evolutionist Charles Darwin figured out through 40 years of studying the behavior and benefits of earthworms.

Yelm Earth markets for retail and wholesale distribution of earthworm castings, three varieties of potting mix that is part earthworm castings, composted mulch and/or topsoil and composted mulch - all under the trademark name "Barefoot Soil," which is approved by the state Department of Agriculture for growing certified organic food crops.

They also sell earthworms online to backyard gardeners who want to practice their own vermicomposting, which is the process of using composting worms to convert waste manures and other organic material into worm castings.

Environmentally Minded

The two men are passionate about their work and the work of the worms. Moynagh, a 44-year-old Minnesota native and mechanical engineer by training, and McLean, a 48-year-old former ski instructor who spent 27 years in the French Alps, were drawn to their new occupation by a desire to provide environmentally friendly alternatives to chemicals and pesticides in gardening and agriculture.

"It allows people to grow in a chemical-free environment," Moynagh said. "We also know that food grown in castings tastes better and is more nutritious."

Yelm Earth customer Michelle Roggi of Tenino was quick to attest to the benefits of worm castings in her garden.

"I buy their soils - it just really stimulates healthy growth," she said during a trip to the worm farm at 14741 Lawrence Lake Road S.E. "I use it all year long."

Yelm Earth is an 11-acre spread that was home to a mushroom farm before conversion to a worm farm in 1991 by previous owners. It was one of the earliest vermiculture operations in the country.

The worm castings produced there were purchased by corporate soil amendment companies who spiked their products with the castings.

With the new business model for the farm developed by McLean and Moynagh, Yelm Earth has introduced its Barefoot Soil products, along with the organically certified red Italian garlic grown at the farm, in six states to organic supermarkets, nursery garden centers, organic farmers, landscapers, military bases, theme parks, local and state government projects, nonprofit environmental groups and more.

"It's a great product that we just need to get out there," Moynagh said. "That's our whole goal."

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