By Tina Comeau
Neil LeBlanc was heading down south on a vacation when, sitting in an airport, he found himself thinking about work.
But he wasn’t thinking about the lobster fishery he earned a living from. Well, at least, not directly.
Rather, he was thinking about worms.
Sitting in the airport terminal LeBlanc had picked up a newspaper where he saw an ad for vermiculture. It turns out worm castings – yes, worm poop – create a superb organic fertilizer and soil conditioner that can be used in gardens, greenhouses and for household plants.
What wasn’t as superb at the time, says LeBlanc, were the prices fishermen were being paid for their catches. This, along with other things, had LeBlanc discouraged about fishing. So the opportunity to make a business out of worm castings intrigued LeBlanc, who had first heard about vermiculture three years prior to that.
Now he decided to act on it.
“When we got back from our vacation that very first evening I took the ad from the newspaper and I picked up the phone and called them. From there we acquired more literature and more information.”
When the lobster season ended at the end of last May, two days later LeBlanc got on a plane and flew to Wisconsin to learn more about worm castings and vermiculture. By the following month he and his wife Shannon were starting up a business they call Growing Green Earthworm Castings. LeBlanc still fishes. But on the days he’s not on the water he and his wife can spend up to nine hours a day tending to their vermiculture business. (Note: You can click on the video tab to view a video of their work.)
They use European Nightcrawlers. Aside from needing worms to get started, they also needed a good, dark soil to feed and breed the worms in, and also to provide a place for the worms to leave their excrement in. Once they found their ideal soil – a compost topsoil from Spectacle Lake – the LeBlancs set up their operation, starting out with two dozen three-and-a-half-gallon buckets to house their worms.
“We started last July with 24 buckets and it was going slowly. We only had a little bit of product each week,” says LeBlanc. But by November, they had outgrown their location. They’re now set up in a property at 87 Cottreau Rd. in Wedgeport, where again they are running out of space.
In one of the temperature-controlled rooms buckets sit on pallets, some eight rows high and just as deep. They have around 700 buckets now and after starting out with 8,000 worms, LeBlanc estimates they now have in the range of 200,000.
When you break it down to the basics, it’s quite simple.
Worms eat. Worms poop.
But in reality it is much more involved than this. Their compost topsoil is kept in what they call the “dirt room.” A worm food mixture that the LeBlancs make themselves is added to the dirt used in the buckets. Worm eggs are also incubated in the buckets. The worms are fed specialized food that is consistent with their diet every 14 days. The food the worms receive is made up of all natural products, nothing genetically modified.
The soil is fluffed up and aerated to loosen it to ensure there are no clumps.
“This way the worm has an easier job to run through the bucket of food,” LeBlanc says.
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