Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Community Interfaith Worm Project

Next time you see a worm, you may view it as a contributing member of society.

you're welcome

Earth worms mosey through the soil, digesting solids and excreting them in the form of castings.  These castings provide the rhizosphere, or area surrounding the roots of plants, with nutritive compounds that contain nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.  The nutrients may either be directly taken in by the plants, or further digested by beneficial soil bacteria and fungi, which turn it into a usable form for the plants. 

Some soils lack adequate worm populations, especially in the case of house plants.  In order to restore the levels of nutrients, fertilizers are often applied.  Alternatively, some agrarian entrepreneurs realized the potential of collecting and selling the worm castings while simultaneously helping members of the community.

A group of gardeners from a church near Des Moines, Iowa added Red Wigglers to their compost, and nurtured rather successful gardens.  The group realized the value of adding the worms to the compost.   They began to feed Red Wigglers organic waste and collect worm castings.  The castings were divided into tea sachets that could be placed in water.  When the water was poured on house plants and gardens, the diffused worm castings noticeably enhanced the health of plants, by increasing fruit size and growth, among other things.

The group of church-going gardeners saw the potential in this simple but clever practice.  At the same time, the gardeners noticed an overwhelming percent of their city's population was unemployed.  Many of the unemployed were perpetually marginalized, and had given up hope in finding employment.  This lead to severe poverty and unhappiness.

The group of gardeners were inspired to help those facing extreme poverty.  But they would need help from the Red Wigglers.

The group decided to capitalize on the worm castings by selling the sachets as fundraisers for local schools and churches through Community Interfaith Worm Project.  The production of one package cost $3 total and were sold for $5.  Members of the community who struggled to find secure jobs were invited to help in the production of these packages.  Each person to help would be payed $1 per package.  Annette, a woman who made the first package that I received, made about thirty packages per hour.

When Annette first came to the church looking for employment, she had very low self confidence.  She also lacked common household items, such as a stove and a refrigerator.  Annette immediately immersed herself in the Worm Project.  She made some money, but more than that, she began to build her confidence and became part of a welcoming community.  Recently, she was able to purchase the stove and refrigerator with help from the group. 

Annette's story demonstrates the success of part of the organization's mission, which states that they hope to " promote the development of community through the building of meaningful relationships between people and organizations working towards the building of a more just, loving, and environmentally conscious society."

"We accomplish this mission through our relationship with the Red Wiggler Worm (Eisenia fetida)."

Not only does the project aid community members in networking and gaining useful experience, but it helps reduce waste by diverting organic waste from the landfill to the compost bin.  As well, it supports healthy garden growth.  The Community Interfaith Worm Project positively affects the community and its gardens - all because of Red Wiggler Worms.

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