Image courtesy of Jack Chambers, Sonoma Valley Worm Farm
Are worm sales a big part of your business, or would you say you are primarily focused on compost production?
JC – This year worm sales have been equal to vermicompost sales. In the beginning it was mostly worm sales, with some casting sales. Once we did the flow through reactors I looked at the worms as the workers, and the vermicompost they made, as our main product.
Now I am coming to the point of thinking that you can have both. Our worm sales were up 35% this year. We have just started tapping into the internet, and I think sales will grow even more next year. We are adding another flow through reactor so that we can sell more worms and more vermicompost.
Our vermicompost sales were up 30% for the year. More vineyards are coming to us and that continues to be a good market for us. Our vermicompost is great for making compost tea. We use the same materials, processed the same way to get a consistent high quality vermicompost.
I think compost tea / vermicompost tea has a tremendous future.
What would you say some of the highlights of owning Sonoma Valley Worms have been over the years? Any frustrations?
I think the biggest highlight have been all the great people I have met through the worm farm. People who want to have worms eat their garbage, and not send it down the drain. We had one young mother who called with a nice story. She said she wanted to order some worms, so her little girl would grow up thinking that composting your food waste was the normal thing to do. She wanted worms for her daughters future.
Another thrill has been learning, and seeing what worms and castings (vermicompost) can really do. I am still amazed to go out and see our worms eating through the compost we feed them. To see plants actually thrive after you feed them some castings or vermicompost tea. Seeing the garden looking healthy and strong, and realizing it is the natural world at work, not chemicals. We spray our roses and vineyard with tea. We have no powdery mildew, rust or black spot. To see that we can do things in a new way is exciting.
Figuring out how to make and run a flow through reactor was a challenge; a good challenge. We had to learn how to compost, how to feed the worms, how to harvest the vermicompost. How long it would take the worms to go through material. It was a great learning experience.
As for frustrations, of course. As the fellow who works for us says, ‘Life is problems’. He says it with a smile, and he is right. Every day we are confronted with challenges and problems. It is up to us to deal with the problems and try to make things work better.
I went through a slump a couple of years ago. I thought we would make this incredible vermicompost and people would be knocking down our doors. Now I realize it is all about teaching people and showing people, and marketing this new wonderful product to the world. This is a life’s work. It will be good to look back and know that I helped to move this whole process along a little bit further.
Stay tuned for our last installment of our interview with Jack Chambers!