Darcy Hubscher finds it difficult to describe what it means to be a worm farmer.
It involves working with dirt, lots of it, but that’s just the surface level. Every day, Nurturing Nature Organics in Lake Country creates around seven tonnes of worm castings; worm poo that makes a phenomenal fertilizer.
African nightcrawler worms are housed in wooden trays piled high to the ceiling, where they happily munch on the soil. The air is warm and humid inside the warehouse, which holds about seven to eight million worms.
“It’s not just about throwing them in a box and letting them go, it’s about monitoring PH levels, humidity, moisture (and) temperature. So, much like a winemaker, I have to make those adjustments,” Hubscher said.
Hubscher has been working as the production manager at the farm for the past five years. His son, Quinn, also works with him on the worm farm, located along Bottom Wood Lake Road in Lake Country.
“Quinn was actually born on my own worm farm, so he’s a third generation worm farmer. It’s in his blood. My father and I had our own worm business back in the late 1990s and early 2000s and we used to sell to this farm,” Hubscher said.
“It was the last thing I wanted to do in high school, but here I am enjoying it, I guess that’s how life goes,” Quinn said.
Twenty-years ago, organic farming wasn’t as well known as it is today, Hubscher said, but the business is booming in part because of the interest.
He said in Cawston and Keremeos, farmers are starting to adopt organic practices. Farmer’s markets and people are interested in growing their own gardens, which is boosting the organic trend.
“People are just being a lot more conscious now than back in the ’80s and ’90s,” he said.
Nurturing Nature’s worm farm started around 40 years ago, as a worm bait business for fish. The then owner discovered that the worm manure was useful for enriching soil and it was eventually taken over by Paul Shoemaker in the 1990s, who built the factory’s current location.
It was then sold again to an American company in the last few years and the farm was able to expand again, adding an extra room for the worms.
The worm castings are sold in bulk to companies across Canada and in the United States, including to those in the cannabis industry.
“Our product is unique, very special. It’s basically Mother Nature’s fertilizer, that is what it is,” Hubscher said.
The African nightcrawler worm is easier to manage in cycles, compared to the red wigglers used for composting, which means the farm can run as a processing plant.
Each worm is both male and female and lives for an average of four to eight years. The worms reproduce while inside their warm crates, Hubscher said.
And you only need a little worm poo to jump-start a plant’s growth.
“A little goes a long way, most people use about 10 or 15 per cent (mixed with other soil,)” said Hubscher. “It’s almost like a steroid for plants. The worms put out the manure, it’s like individual pellets.”
The process starts with worm food, a soil that comes from a local farmer.
“It’s like a compost mix, and… this by itself is a very good growing product and our worms love it,” Hubscher said.
After letting the dirt sit for five days, Hubscher said they add a special “Col. Sanders recipe” of grains that will ferment in this process used as worm food.
The food is put in trays with the worms for a few days, before they eat through it to create worm castings. The worms and castings are then separated and the process starts all over again.
“They’re our workers. We don’t see worms,” Hubscher chuckled.
The castings are sold at various locations around the Okanagan, including Ace Hardware, Art Knapp in Kelowna Kal Lake Nursey and Swan Lake Nursey in Vernon.