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Cathy's Crawly Composters - Vermicomposting

Cathy's Crawly Composters

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The Sherbrooke Record

February 6, 2012

LES students harness power of the worm

By: Corrinna Pole

Things were downright dirty and squirmy at Lennoxville Elementary School last Friday as the grade three classes were given a hands-on lesson in vermicomposting.

With hundreds of worms in tow, Ontario worm farmer Cathy Nesbitt introduced the students and their teachers Bonnie Juby-Smith and Isabelle Desbiens, to the indoor garbage disposal system that uses worms to turn organic waste into nutrient-rich organic soil.

“Early explorers would take worms with them because they are soil makers. They brought worms to the new world so they could make soil to grow their food... now they are trying to figure out how to bring worm to mars,” said the founder of Cathy’s Crawly Composters. “When I started doing this I used to say it’s not rocket science, it’s earth science but now it’s rocket science too.”

After being shown how to build their own worm bins and getting the basics on how to use the only three-tiered worm chalet in the country, the animated and comical presenter explained to kids how worms can help save the environment by eating trash and keeping it out of landfills.

Nesbit is a woman on a mission, to see that every family has one pound of worms – containing about 1,000 red wiggler worms and 400 night crawlers - helping to breakdown the one tonne of organic waste the average Canadian family produces in a year.

Even with the city’s compost system, Nesbit believes every house should have a team of working worms.

“The organic collection program is great but it’s not sustainable. You have the trucks that are driving back and forth to collect the containers and leaving a carbon footprint and containers [to store waste inside] that aren’t well made and end up producing methane gases in the kitchen,” she said. “[vermicomposting] is all done onsite so I’m really looking after my own garbage. It’s waste management and fights soil degradation all at once.”

Back in the classroom the kids learned composting basics and worm biology – they live ten years and have five hearts but can’t hear or see - and even what a group of worms is called - it’s a squirm by the way.

Although they were are bit grossed out – one student noted that he would never eat spaghetti again – they were captivated and bravely handled the invertebrates admitting, as another student put it, that they were having “super gross fun.”

Graham, 8, said he enjoyed learning about how to feed and prepare bedding for the worms in the chalet.

“In a way it’s complicated because you have to do a lot but it’s good for the environment and it’s fun,” he said.

When asked why worm composting was a good idea, Christopher, age 9, said it was “cool” and would help “people grow much better plants.”

Nesbitt has been focusing on worms since she left her career as a social worker to open her green business in 2002. Since then she’s amassed more than 4,000 clients in North America, multiple awards and will be travelling to Guatemala next month to help women who live around a garbage dump use worm-based composting to become entrepreneurs.

Along with touring trade and green shows, she’s travelled across the country giving classroom workshops to help to eliminate the “ick” factor. It seems to have worked for 9-year-old Meagann who’s more comfortable with worms now. “It was fun,” she said of the workshop, “And it was nice for them to come all the way from Toronto to teach us.”

Thanks to two green grants - $1,300 from the TD Bank, Friends of the Environment Foundation and $1,000 from Metro Green Apple Grant – the grade three class not only had the workshop but gets to keep three worm chalets, giving the school its first worm composting program.

The units will stay in the classroom, with the extra one going to the school’s daycare, prompting 8-year-old Eryn to bet “we have the most classmates in the whole school.”

The class plans on using the compost they produce in and around the school gardens and are discussing the possibility of selling it in future fundraisers.

To learn more about worm composting visit www.cathyscomposters.com.

 

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