Nourishing Worm Castings from Green Leaf Worm Farm
After Sean Moore suffered his third heart attack, he left a life on the water as a ship’s deckhand and buried himself in a pursuit that’s all about the land.
More specifically, about the dirt. The dirt and a humble critter that calls the dirt home: the worm.
I caught up with Moore while he prepared a new earthworm bin at Choices Natural Market in Venice. The four-foot by eight-foot plywood box, brightly painted with the Green Leaf Worm Farms logo on the front, was half filled with a soft, dark, and crumbly substance: worm castings.
As Moore explains, the properties of worm castings are nothing short of magical. The bags of “living soil” produced by the worms at Moore’s Port Charlotte–based company contain microbes within the nutrient-dense material. These microbes break up elements in the soil and make them readily available to plant life. The plants show their gratitude by producing harvests more than twice the average yield. “So instead of a basil plant, you have a basil tree!” Moore says.
Not only do worm castings nourish a plant, but they possess protective powers as well. Those same helpful microbes devour pests, blights, and mildews, some considered incurable by the arsenal available at your average home and garden superstore. From conversations with satisfied customers, Moore has also discovered how castings are a boon to sandy Florida soils, binding to silicates to create topsoil that can retain moisture and nutrients.
“We are the last country to catch on to this,” Moore says. “This is not a new technology. On the pyramids of Giza, there are people sifting earthworms. That’s how they got their big harvests. The Aztecs did it, the Mayans did it—all the great civilizations did it.”
Moore sells his worm castings and worm teas at farmers markets from Bradenton to Fort Myers. Lately local schools are catching on, inviting Moore to install worm bins that support student gardening projects. “It’s really good to get the kids involved because the most important thing is, they’re our future. They’re our foundation,” Moore says.
“You’ve got to let them understand that food does not come from Wal- Mart. It actually grows.”
Moore and Green Leaf Worm Farm are part of a tight-knit community of local “green guys,” as Moore calls them, who are deeply concerned about corporate control over national food systems. However, Moore is optimistic about new trends he’s seeing among equally concerned consumers.
“People are getting tired of the runaround, and people are getting tired of eating garbage. More and more people are starting to actually care about what goes into their bodies,” Moore says.
As part of this trend, Moore’s worms are steadily burrowing into the mainstream as environmental heroes. “Organic” and “non-GMO” are today’s big buzzwords, but tomorrow’s might just be “African nightcrawler.”