Worm Castings Quality 101

I was originally just going to call this post “John Kohler” visits Texas Worm Ranch” (super compelling, I know! lol), but as I continued to watch the video (shared below) it became more and more apparent that it was the ultimate lesson in worm castings “quality”.

I won’t claim I’ve always been a huge fan of John Kohler’s (I promise we’ll circle back to this further along), but I must say he really knocked it out of the park with this one. He provided a great tour of Heather Rinaldi’s facility (and process), shared lots of excellent information, and wasn’t shy about admitting when he was clueless about something.

As I pointed out in my blog post, “Better Castings, Faster?“, coming up with a definitive answer for what makes “good quality castings” can be very challenging, especially when there are no official standards in place.

What I love about Heather’s process is her “biology first” approach that’s still very standardized/consistent. And she doesn’t just zone in on one or two factors to determine if her castings are ready for customers – she has a much more extensive quality control protocol, involving a range of different assessments.

Backing up a bit, I’m proud to say that I’ve known Heather (and have considered her a friend) for more than a decade. She was one of my early RWC “Inner Circle” (group that evolved into the WFA) members, and she was even featured here on the blog as part of my RWC interview series (see “Interview With Texas Worm Rancher Heather Rinaldi“).

Like many others, I watched (and cheered) as she seemed to take the worm composting world by storm over the years.

But this is actually the first time I’ve really been provided with an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at her operation – so it was a real treat indeed.

Anyway – getting back to the video…

Here are just some of the things I found really interesting:

>> All the steps involved in creating Heather’s carbon-loaded, slow-aged living food material.
>> Some important “mythbusting” (eg “citrus is ‘bad'”, “castings are all the same thing” etc)
>> The beds used for castings production vs the beds used for worm production.
>> The multi-stage castings screening process used at Texas Worm Ranch (and how they re-use the bulky materials)
>> The different quality-control parameters Heather focuses on, and how her castings different from lower quality products often found at nurseries and big box stores.
>> John’s feelings about stacking worm bins (let’s just say that he and I agree on this one! lol)

At around the 59 minute mark, John actually sits down with Heather for an interview. Lots more great info is shared, and John even tosses out a microbial joke zinger about “fungirls” to go with all the “funguys” (I laughed – but also appreciated the really important point John was making about fungal diversity).

Circling back to my aforementioned John Kohler gripe…

Although I’ve been a big fan of John’s work for quite a few years – I wasn’t too thrilled with how he (unfairly) bashed the Urban Worm Bag in one of his videos (see my post “John Kohler vs The Urban Worm Bag“).

As an interesting sidenote, I just realized his Texas Worm Ranch video was only published a couple of months after the anti-UWB one! It seems his view of the UWB had already mellowed a bit (an Urban Worm Bag is actually featured towards the end of the video).

Bottom-line, all is “forgiven” and I look forward to watching more of John’s videos (and of course learning more about Heather’s work). If any of you have “Growing Your Greens” favorites – especially ones relating to worm composting – be sure to tell me about them below!

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