Worm Guy – Mark Yelken

This is a really interesting program (nearly 30 min) about Mark ‘The Worm Guy’ Yelken, a worm farmer (and president of Jonesy Environmental Services) on Vashon Island , Washington. Here is a blurb from his website (link to follow):

Vashon Island’s landfill is full and closed. All waste and recycling has to be hauled off of the island. It is the goal of Jonesy Environmental Services to create a full circle approach and turn the food and yard waste into compost by systems using worms and keep it on the island for use in resident’s yards and gardens. The waste (grocery store food waste, restaraunts prep waste, resident kitchen scraps and, ultimately, clean yard waste). Education is the critical portion to help make this program successful.

Jonesy Environmental Services plans to partnership with Earthcorp, Seattle Tilth, Washington Tilth, King County, Sustainable Vashon, Heifer International and like minded organizations for education opportunities for residents, businesses, schools, civic clubs and fairs regarding the benefit of worms, worm bins, composting and how this can help our environment. A sustainable, full circle approach.

In October 2005, a vermicompost system, that allows worms to compost 200 pounds of food waste per day, was purchased to help eliminate all food waste from the businesses and residents of Vashon Island. The “green” food waste is picked up from the grocery stores, restaurants, coffee and tea establishments, the local country club, Senior Care Center, the Food Bank and any and all residents. Pre-consumer food waste (“prep”) is collected daily at no charge to the businesses. Five gallon buckets with lids are left daily for their use. The full buckets are replaced by clean buckets. The green food waste is composted with worms to provide an end product, vermicompost, which is retained on the island and returned to the residents, at no profit, for their use in the gardens, yards and any other community purpose.

Certainly sounds as though Mark is providing a fantastic service on the island! Be sure to pop by his website to have a look around. It is jam packed with lots of info, photos etc:
The Worm Guy
[UPDATE 2018: Mark’s website is no longer online and he doesn’t seem to be involved in vermicomposting anymore]

His flow-through reactor (shown in the video) looks great, and actually looks like it would be a manageable size for an indoor location.

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    • Allen
    • December 27, 2007

    I love this video! Especially the part about him using the buckets as that’s what I’ve been doing, course I only have one bucket so far. I can’t believe he harvests from the buckets every two weeks. I did only start mine with 120 worms and I think he said each of his buckets has about 250 so I need to build up my population a little.
    Thanks for all the useful information. I’ve enjoyed the recent interviews that you’ve been doing.


    • Bentley
    • December 27, 2007

    Hi Allen,
    Glad you found the video (and our site) interesting!
    It generally takes some time for a worm system to reach peak performance, and conditions need to be ‘just right’ in order for this to happen at all. Once your bucket reaches an equilibrium (right number of worms etc) you will likely see an improvement in the performance of the system!


  1. The sifting/processing system is inspiring. Can’t help noticing that it’s electrically driven though, and that the input/output is being hauled around by truck (burning oil…) Nevertheless, good work; a good, progressive demo to start.
    Maybe as people notice and appreciate what he is doing and the benefits is brings, the ideas/methods could be adapted and scaled down, for on-site operation at businesses/farms and homes, manually operated, powered at higher-volume sites by linkage to exercise machine? Windmill?

    • Bentley
    • December 28, 2007

    Hi Harold,
    Yeah, I guess you’ve got to start somewhere, right? Unfortunately I have to use a fair bit of electricity to run my computer which allows me to share my passion for vermicomposting, but I figure it’s a trade-off if it helps spread the word and get more people interested in it!

    That being said, always looking for greener alternatives is definitely a wise idea as well!


    • Patrick Masoperh
    • May 10, 2008

    Hi Mark,
    I am besides myself with excitement at stumbling on your video. It’s taking forever for me to watch it all though cos it sort of breaks up, pauses a bit and then continues again. At this rate it might take me an hour or two to go thru it all. Nonetheless, it’s an eyeopener! I need to be educated in vermiculture by pros like you so I can spread the gospel here in our parts (ie. Ghana in West Africa). I believe it’s the solution to our big waste disposal nightmare. How could you really be of help to this dream of mine, do you think? Thanx a zillion for the excellent work you r doing!

    • Bentley
    • May 12, 2008

    Hey Patrick,
    That’s not actually my video, but there is plenty of solid info here on the site to get you started!


    • Patricia
    • May 13, 2008

    I really enjoyed the video from the worm guy. Liked the bucket idea. I wish he had expanded on the horse manure a bit. I would love to convert my concrete bins to a bucket system so I would feel more confident about the harvesting. Bentley, do you have any references to using horse manure so I can benefit more from it ie: temperature, aging. and such.? TIA Patrricia

    • Bentley
    • May 14, 2008

    Hi Patricia,
    Sorry for the delay getting back to you!
    I don’t know of any academic studies dealing specifically with horse manure vermicomposting offhand, but I DO know that it has been used extensively in vermicomposting. In fact, a little while back I wrote about the massive Olympic horse facility in China that is using vermicomposting to process the manure this summer.

    As I wrote in another recent comment, I would simply try experimenting with it. If you have an established worm system, simply start adding small amounts of horse manure on top and see what happens. You can even create a small test bin if you are worried that it’s going to harm your worms.


    • Patricia
    • May 15, 2008

    Bentley, my whole compost is horse manure but I didn’t age it before I put it in so that is probably why it is taking so long to compost. I did read the article on the Olympic manure and it was interesting. I guess alot of this is just trial and error but I am so worried about losing my worms that I hesitate and then have a duh! moment. Thanks for everything you do. Patricia

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