“The Worm Farmer’s Handbook” is a valuable resource if you are looking to wriggle your way into worm farming.

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The Worm Farmer’s Handbook

By Rhonda Sherman

$29.95, available at most major retailers

Published by Chelsea Green Publishing

Author Rhonda Sherman gives matter-of-fact information, gleaned from her more than 20 years of experience at North Carolina State University, with dashes of humor that reveal her fondness for her subject matter. Her subject matter for this book is vermicomposting on a larger scale. Vermicomposting is the use of earthworms to convert organic waste into fertilizer and it is not the same thing as composting. According to Sherman, “vermicomposting is more similar to livestock production than to composting; it requires animal husbandry skills to properly care for the worms.”

Earthworms are much more than fish bait and, with proper care, they can be helpful to your bottom line and your environment. Sherman thoroughly outlines the hows and whys of worm farming as well as a chapter on developing a worm farm business plan. Her goal is to guide the mid- to large-scale worm farmer along the road to success.

That road is not always easy and Sherman does an excellent job of including examples throughout the book. She includes testimonies from worm farmers who are honest about their struggles and successes. The final chapter gives an overview of large-scale worm farming operations around the world. Between the testimonies and the overviews, Sherman paints an accurate picture of production on the whole.

As director of NCSU’s Compost Learning Lab, Sherman has gathered an impressive amount of information on earthworms and what they have to offer.

One of the most impressive facts Sherman shares is how long earthworms can grow. Anyone who has taken high school biology knows that earthworms can be large enough and long enough to dissect, but she says the longest earthworm on record was 22 feet long and stretched across both lanes of a two-lane road in South Africa in 1967.

Australia is known for its long list of deadly reptiles and insects, but it is also home to some of the longest earthworms. The Giant Gippsland Worm can grow to 13 feet long, but averages 10 feet in length and three-quarters of an inch thick. The Prussian Blue can be 6 feet long and is found in the mountains near Cairns, Australia. This one is worth Googling as it also looks like a giant gummy worm, and leaves behind a trail of glowing mucus.

Not to be outshone, New Zealand has an earthworm species that is bioluminescent, meaning it glows in the dark. Some say its light is bright enough to read by and it can grow to 4 ½ feet long.

North America’s earthworms don’t look like candy or stretch across a highway, but the eastern region of Washington and northern Idaho is home the Washington giant earthworm. Also called the giant Palouse earthworm, it can be 3 feet long and one-half inch thick. The Oregon Giant Earthworm grows to 4 feet long.

Sherman’s book offers information that would be helpful to small-scale worm farmers looking to expand their operation, while pointing out some of the obstacles they may encounter along the way.

Jennifer Theurer can be reached at 620-227-1858 or jtheurer@hpj.com.

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