Harvesting Worms with a Winnowing Machine

A little while ago I asked my good friend Jeff “The Friendly Worm Guy” Sonnenburg to make a video of his worm/castings harvesting machine in action, and here it is!

What makes Jeff’s harvesting method really interesting is the fact that he uses an antique winnowing machine (also known as a ‘fanning mill’) to do the job – not a regular worm harvester. He was able to get the machine for a great price, and judging by what I saw in the video I’d say it works very well for harvesting worms. For those of you unfamiliar, a ‘winnowing machine’ is a device used to separate grain from the ‘chaff’ and other debris.

Just a little reminder of the fact that it never hurts to think outside the box (or the bin – haha) every now and again!

Thanks for sharing, Jeff!

[tags]harvesting, harvester, castings, worms, vermicomposting, worm composting, vermiculture, winnowing machine, fanning mill[/tags]

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  1. this appears to be an old grain seperator as my grandfather used
    I have thought for years about using one and have also one
    what size of screens do you use?? or can I buy screens from you that would fit my old Eaton grain seperator

    • Bentley
    • April 23, 2008

    Hey Mark – I’m not sure what size of screen Jeff uses. I’ll fire him an email to let him know about the comment.


    • Jeff
    • April 24, 2008

    Hi Mark

    Yes this is an old Grain cleaner!! It is a “NEW Chatham Mill” HAHA!!
    Made in Chatham Ontario. Maybe NEW 80-90 years ago!! I was lucky enough to get the original screens with the Mill. The final screen on the bottom is 1/8″ screen.
    The only thing with using something like this to harvest your worms is to let your beds dry out a little first, if you don’t let it dry a little you get a far bit of the vermicompost clumping,and the vermicompost doesn’t go through the screens very well.
    You also need to slow the air flow down a lot, or else the fan blows your vermicompost out the front of the machine, Believe me!! it took a few days to get the mill setup, to make the castings as good as it does!!
    Hope this helps a little..
    Thanks Jeff ( The Friendly Worm Guy)

    • Licia
    • June 12, 2008

    Hi Jeff I loved your video with the winnowing machine. I just started my little worm family today. I am keeping them in my kitchen I have them in rubbermaid roughneck 10 gal container with a container underneath to catch the water. I have been watching videos on how to set them up. I will continue to watch your web site for pointers. Thanks again for posting your video.

    • izni
    • September 18, 2008

    im from malaysia..where can i get all those things..im so interested since i am in the vermiculture industries. current we are still using convensional methods which consume a lot of time.

  2. Hey Jeff,

    You certainly have some very large worms! I just started my own worm farm about five months ago and I love it. It is very small, about 5,000 worms and growing. I was wondering if I could get some advice from you on your worms and business; from one worm farmer to the next :). Who and how did you start selling to in the begging? Did you have to become a certified producer or organic producer to sell your castings? What is your best advice to a new-be worm farmer such as myself.

    Thank you for taking time out to chat and answer my questions. I hope your farm keeps growing and talk to you soon.


    • TexasFarmer
    • October 12, 2011

    What would be your estimate on how many pounds of worms is in your bin and what is the medium you are vermicomposting with. Thanks!

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