RAF Vermicompost

by Anna de la Vega

If you had to think of one of the most unlikely locations for a worm farm, perhaps a military site would probably be it – but times are evidently changing.  If you’d told us 10 years ago we would be nurturing worms and making earth on military sites we would be hard pressed to believe you, particularly as our motto is Worms & Peace – which is a reference to the fact that the manufacturing process for chemical fertiliser is related to that of certain types of explosives manufacture. We seek peace on the land.

Our superstar Worm Champion at Stanford Hall, Phil Kenny

Since early 2022 The Urban Worm has been working with the hospitality, catering and cleaning company ESS-Compass to bring worms onto three military sites across the East Midlands: Stanford Hall’s Defense Rehabilitation Centre, RAF Waddington and RAF Coningsby. Each site is home to four 1100 litre Wheelie Bin Worm Farms, with tens of thousands of worms transforming canteen waste into a nutrient rich fertiliser and compost for use on site.

Paul and Phil harvesting more high-grade compost at Stanford Hall



Our first site at Stanford Hall, spearheaded and instigated by ESS-Compass’s general manager Paul Smith, stood as a beacon for others to follow. Despite the extreme weather conditions over the past 12 months (temperatures from 40°C+ down to -20°C), the worms have thrived, and to date we have harvested over 100 kilos of worm manure. The success of the worm farms is due to the extraordinary care of ESS’s Phil Kenny who ensured their every need was met; we are forever grateful for your service Phil.  Phil has since moved onto pastures new and has passed the worm baton onto Paul Dawton who has learned from the best.

ESS has ensured each site has a dedicated worm caretaker ensuring the programmes success. Although we are yet to harvest from the RAF sites we look forward to a bumper harvest later on in the year which will be used to establish gardens onsite. We are delighted to be able to share the harvest at Stanford Hall with the national charity HighGround who are based on site. The charity provides Horticultural Therapy for patients with complex physical and psychological needs, as prescribed by their Occupational Therapist as part of their rehabilitation programme. In addition to providing Horticultural Therapy HighGround supports Service Leavers, Reservists and Veterans to access opportunities and training in the land-based sector. Worms are great healers and are perfectly placed to be supporting the rehabilitation of servicemen.

Jane Taylor of national charity HighGround, at Stanford Hall

There is great optimism for the world of worm farming as global companies such as ESS-Compass are embracing the power of the worm, making responsible choices that nourish the earth and pioneer a way forward. Having operational worm farms at military sites becomes increasingly relevant as the world is experiencing a crisis in the health of soil, undermining food security and therefore national security. Healthy soil is the foundation of a healthy society, we can no longer continue the trajectory of dependence on toxic and costly agricultural chemicals that destroy life in all its forms – a change has to come.

Governments would do well to include worm farms as part of their national security strategy, and when they do The Urban Worm will be here to serve!



Worms & Peace