November 2023 edition
Did you get this newsletter late, or twice, or into your junk mail? We do apologise, we've had some untimely server issues - but if you are reading this, they should be all sorted now!

Dear Friends

Welcome to The Urban Worm newsletter, and thank you so much for joining us, for believing in the humble but mighty worm!

Where Did All The Worm Farmers Go?

When starting out on our own worm farming journey 10 years ago the landscape of vermiculture in the UK was sparse to say the least, hence the establishment of The Urban Worm, but is hasn’t always been this way. In the 1980s under the guidance of the late professor Clive Edwards, vermiculture research at the Rothamstead Institute - home of the oldest agricultural research institute in the world - was prominent. With funding from the British government, British Earthworm Technology (BET) was established as consortium of organisations (academia, industry and engineering) to develop a robust path for vermiculture in the UK. Unfortunately for us for in the UK, in 1985 Edwards took a position at Ohio State University and the drive for expansion and progress in the UK dwindled. However, according to researchers there were 500 small-mid scale operations and several hundred large operations in the first decade of this century. Of particular note is ORM Professional Products in Brecon, Wales, employing seven full time members of staff and exporting worm manure to Ireland, France, Holland, Malaysia and Ivory Coast. ORM was dissolved in 2011. Where did all the worm farmers go?
With that said worms could be making a come back in the beautiful Brecon Beacons. Last month we had the pleasure of sharing the power of worms with the wonderful Wales Farm Cluster in Tregoyd supported by The Black Mountain College. Worms take us to the best places to meet the best people: thank you Wales Farm Cluster, it was an absolute pleasure to share the joy of worms. We are positive that with enough knowledge-share we can get back to where we once were. Let’s make worm farming normal again.

To The Power Of One

With the dark of winter upon us, here’s a little light from Wales. In November 2021 Huw Walford applied to become one of our ‘1000 Worm Farmers’ on behalf of HMP Bridgend where he works as a Horticulture Instructor after seeing the project in BBC Gardeners World Magazine. Two years on the worms are thriving and the prison now boasts a population of roughly 4 kilos from a humble 100g pack, that have been nurtured by Huw and inmates. Seven inmates have been directly responsible for worm care duties, and the success of the project has led to them considering entrepreneurial opportunities, while management are seeking to upscale the operation as a waste disposal solution. In the prison garden this growing season, no synthetic fertiliser has been used and in its place nutrient rich worm manure has helped to grow 6000 chilies, 50kg of tomatoes, 100 cucumbers and 20 aubergines.

The site is also home to beehives and a pond, and with support from The Woodland Trust Schools and Communities grant the site is now home to native British woodland trees; dog rose, hawthorn, hazel, crab apple, dogwood, elder, rowan, holly, downy birch, goat willow, blackthorn, silver birch, and common oak. Life is thriving in the most unlikely of places. Thank you Huw for being the catalyst for a worm farming culture in HMP Bridgend - it only takes one person to instigate real change. To learn about the overwhelming success of the project and to have received requests for vermiculture book recommendations from inmates made our month, and we hope this little story brightens your month too. All power to Huw and the mighty worm.

We would love to hear your worm stories -

A thank you to our subscribers

Get 30% off in our shop

We know times are tough for everyone this winter, so as a thank you for staying with our newsletter and to help potential worm farmers start their seasonal composting, we are pleased to give you this voucher code to use in The Urban Worm Shop, a one-time 30% discount off all products when you shop online before 1 January 2024

One for the photo album...

...and a parenting tip

It’s been raining - a lot - and if you have started to notice worms around the top of your worm farm and around the lid don’t take their apparent escape attempts personally. They just don’t like the rain; well, the vibrations to be more accurate. To reduce the stress levels of your worms during a rainy season either keep them under a shelter or place a piece of old carpet or fabric on top of the farm to absorb the vibrations. Our happiness is measured by the happiness of our worms, it’s a parental thing…
* Research by Butt & Williams -
Vermiculture Technology Earthworms, Organic Wastes, and Environmental Management;
[Ed.] Clive A. Edwards, Norman Q. Arancon, Rhonda L. Sherman, 2011

Thank you for joining us in the New Worm Order, and we hope the worms can bring you some warmth for the winter months ahead as we begin to batten down the hatches!

Worms & Peace
Anna & The Urban Worm team