What Are Worm Castings? | Tom Gilbert of Black Dirt Farm on What Makes Good Compost

Plants and worms have been co-evolving
together for a long time. Most plants are not able to synthesize their own
nutrients and require that microbial breakdown to make the nutrients
available to them. Just the slime covering the worm is
beneficial to the soil biology so it’s they’re covered in organisms but then
the worms are also hosting a group of organisms in their gut that are uniquely
beneficial to plants. I think what is exciting about composts
is that it’s the thing that knits the food system back into a cycle. It’s about
creating a system that can be replenished from the outputs of that
system. We’ve really set out to create a farm model that reflects as much of that
as we can. The food that we collect from off of the farm: first we make it into a
compost blend that we feed laying hens on, and then what they don’t eat we make
garden compost with, and a portion of that we siphon off and we add further
value to and make worm castings with that. And then at the end of the whole
system we grow produce. Our compost and our worm castings, their quality metrics
really come from that initial blend. Our blend is somewhere between 11 and 13
distinct ingredients and those different energy sources follow a spectrum from
simple sugars to more complex lignans like hardwood bark that allow us to
really really grow out this extremely well articulated microbial community
including fungi like Trichoderma that are going to deliver services to a
grower in terms of preying on disease organisms that would otherwise attack
the roots of their plants and it’s in that recipe that all the qualities of
our worm castings ultimately begin. When I think about the farm, I really think
about the community in which we operate. It wouldn’t be satisfying to just sort
of like make something, grow something, and just find a market for it. So I want
to grow crops that are super nourishing. I want to make worm castings that don’t
just entreat you to buy them but really perform for you, that really turn your
soil into a high-performance soil that is gonna give you better plants. What
we’re delivering to you with the worm castings is this ready-made biological
inoculant that like a sourdough starter is going to help you grow healthy
biological communities in your soil.

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