The Wild Farmlands Foundation is piloting a production vermicast (vermicompost) system on Restoration Oaks Ranch to document and demonstrate the benefits of earthworm vermicast and vermicast teas and extracts on ecosystems in general, and on food-producing lands in particular.
Vermicast is, bluntly, worm poop. Because it is excrement, it is often treated like manure and categorized as a type of compost, which is a pathogen risk in most regulatory literature. It shouldn't be.
Earthworms are pathogen destroyers, not pathogen generators. Vermicast is unique in its capacity to rebuild and sustain healthy soils and all of the benefits that come with it. It is produced in a short period of time and has dense microbial life and macro and micro nutrients, making vermicasting one of the most efficient and effective ways to boost soil health that we know of.
Large-scale on-farm vermicasting should be treated as a viable and sustainable nutrient and biological resource for Santa Barbara County’s agricultural industry. Yet, there are regulatory, financial and logistical barriers to adoption in our region. Our Worm Farm Project is a long-term “proof of concept” that will pilot the on-farm production processes needed to cost-effectively develop a vermicompast system, identify and document barriers, develop farm operation protocols and showcase the community-wide benefits of worms and vermicast to agriculture and ecosystems.
The project team is studying quite a few different metrics – both environmental and agricultural. The questions we are attempting to answer include the following:
- Can vermicast improve the health and productivity of perennial berry crops?
- Can vermicast increase the soil health of cropland and its ability to sequester and store carbon?
- Can vermicast signficantly replace the cropland’s reliance on synthetic fertilizers?
- Can vermicast improve the ability of the cropland to cycle and capture water, and reduce agricultural runoff?
- Can properly scaled on-farm vermicast systems help Santa Barbara County achieve its climate, food waste diversion, and agricultural preservation goals?
Contact Ed Seaman if you have questions about the Worm Farm project, the Oak Grasslands Restoration project, our Carbon Farming blueprint or related events and activities on Restoration Oaks Ranch.