Organic Agriculture: What is Vermiculture?

CAM04728By Brian Berletic

Located 2 hours south of Bangkok in the Thai province of Phetchaburi, is the provincial capital, Phetchaburi City. While it is surrounded by what seems like endless farmland, it itself is an urban landscape complete with all the comforts you could find in any small city. It is the least likely place in the province you would expect to find a farm of any kind, yet nestled in a small alley between two larger buildings, with a small home squeezed far in the back, lies a vermiculture operation.

Vermiculture is the use of earthworms to break down organic material into rich fertilizer for use in organic gardening and farming. Despite what one would expect to see at such an operation, this alley was orderly, clean, professional, even a little stylish, and included many clever conventions to quickly and efficiently separate the worms from the compost and prepare them for distribution to either single customers looking for a small portion for use at home, or to much larger operations requiring many large bags of fertilizer for their rows and fields.

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Large operations like this can easily be done almost anywhere. One probably wouldn’t want to do it inside, but almost any shaded spot outdoors in the city, suburbs, or countryside can easily be used for vermiculture operations big and small.

CAM04727Vermiculture is great for any organic garden or farm, but they are particularly suited for urban agriculture because other sources of natural fertilizer, such as larger livestock are usually not possible to care for properly in urban environments. Vermiculture, unlike livestock, requires little space, uses easily available food (kitchen scraps) and the little inhabitants of vermiculture operations often go unseen and unnoticed by most.
Together with aquaponics and biogas, vermiculture is a great alternative to livestock for onsite organic fertilizer production. For those who seek the benefits of vermiculture products but would rather not do vermiculture themselves, operations like those found in Phetchaburi City can turn vermiculture not only into a benefit for their own gardens or farms, but into a small business helping other gardeners and farmers source high-quality, organic, local fertilizer.

WillAllen3For those that don’t mind tending a small vermiculture operation, farming becomes an option even in the most unlikely of places. Healthy soil can be made almost anywhere with vermiculture, meaning that even if you live in a city, you can still break your dependence on chemical fertilizers and go organic. In fact, Growing Power in the US uses both vermiculture and aquaponics to produce nutrients and grow an abundance of healthy, organic produce all year round in an urban environment.

Brian Berletic writes for Follow on Facebook here or on Twitter here.


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