This was not the typical world soil day celebration that one would expect! On days like these we are accustomed to high-level celebrations with dignitaries and very modest ‘hello’s and hi’s coupled with firm handshakes and smiles. We also should not forget the philosophical speeches which can have us dreaming occasionally!
World soil day celebration was due to the efforts of The UWI, Faculty of Food and Agriculture and FAO. The celebration started with a folk dance and dramatization of man’s origin and his ongoing relationship with the soil and environment. The involvement of soil in the carnival art-form was very enlighting.
The aroma of cocoa boiling brought some excitement to the taste buds however persons were really surprised to find out that it was a flavoring used to enhance the appeal of soil for body painting.
Please be mindful that not all soils are good for J’ouvert! the science and preparation process requires experience!
The use of soil and by extension agriculture to stimulate behavioral change was another highlight of the day.
Mr. Francis shared some life-changing experiences through the continuous work being done by the prison officers in helping to reintroduce changed individuals back into society.
Ms. Chen also shared some of the work being done by the Green Market to help create a social safety-net for school students using agriculture.
Other aspects of the day included different sessions focused on the agronomic and environmental relevance of soil.
All in all! I say a job well done by The UWI and FAO for raising the awareness on a neglected natural resource that needs to be urgently protected or else we all perish!
As we continue to expand on our future farmer base we would like to introduce to you Five Rivers Secondary (FRS)
FRS seems to be no stranger to the spotlight as it has a winning track record in a number of events.
Teacher Jeanette Browne has contributed her fair share to this winning streak by challenging her students to be creative and this push has placed them first on several occasions.
They have built on the knowledge and ideas that we have shared with them and created technologies that could partially automate vermicomposting as well as saleable products.
Semi-Automatic vermicomposting system
Several of Ms. Browne’s projects have awarded her first and second place prizes locally and internationally. Furthermore, her students are able to tangibly experience simple sustainable environmental technologies.
We are happy to have helped stimulate some thought and as we continue to work together we will train more future worm farmers.
Future farmers at work!
Investing in ourselves is something we rarely do! Our excuses are often time and money! We ‘never have the time’ to exercise because we have ‘very important things’ to do! We could sacrifice to purchase that new LCD Smart T.V, however, we would have to check our budget to treat ourselves to a healthy meal.
” A stitch in time saves nine”
We see worm farming as a short-term investment with long-term benefits for generations to come.
We can continue to hope that the government will do something about the environmental problem that we are perpetuating or we can try and treat it within our homes or communities and eat healthier and live cleaner.
In this video, we are sharing some feedback from our valued customers on their ‘self-investment.’
The work of the humble earthworm is not possible without the hands of many friends!
Whether you are actively composting or you are just allowing your materials to rot in that special pile somewhere in your backyard, the presence of these moldy, and sometimes spore-like structures might have caught your attention. Their role in the decomposition process is undoubtedly very important.
Organic matter is naturally complex and this complexity cannot be fully unraveled alone by the earthworm, given its lack of teeth or similar functioning appendages.
The rate of organic matter degradation is also dependent in part, on the type and amount of cellulose and lignin which comprise the material. In layman terms the Carbon: Nitrogen ratio.
Saprophytic organisms thrive on dead and decaying organic matter (where would the world be without them?) by solubilizing complex organic compounds into simple sugars, amino acids and nutrients. They ( bacteria and fungi) offer that extra hand which the earthworms need to initiate the decomposition process.
Microorganisms, though small, express themselves in a variety of distinct ways.
These microbes are able to induce decomposition at the cellular level however without the intervention of macro-organisms to fragment these organic materials decomposition would have been slower. Therefore fragmenting increases the contact surface for microbes and the rate of decomposition.
The grazing activity of earthworms also perpetuates the presence of these beneficial organisms as they are ingested and redeposited throughout the soil or compost via their castings.
All of these beneficial interactions contribute to a healthier soil environment. Furthermore, good soil management practices such as organic mulching will encourage a rich diversity of micro and macro-organisms; whereas bad soil management practices, such as land burning will interfere with these natural processes.
In our subsequent articles, we will take a closer look at how farmers can maintain and promote a mutually beneficial relationship with the soil environment.
The ability to produce holistic students is what most schools dream of, however, achieving this reality requires action. Waiting for that grand opportunity to get started often amounts to naught because they very rarely present themselves.
Holy Faith Convent Couva recently introduced Agriculture to its curriculum with the goal of producing a more versatile individual. Convincing the students to adopt this new subject area, however, will require the support of people who believe in it. That’s where teacher Carina comes in!
While Agriculture is not her field she understands its value and has decided to show her support by getting involved and encouraging the students to adopt the subject. She supports the vision of the school of developing holistic students.
“We are able to sell all of our produce right here on the compound and the nearby supermarkets are willing to take whatever we have,” these are the sentiments of teacher Carina.
But what if she could grow her produce organically? What if her students could have the opportunity to learn about sustainable farming and reduce wastage?
What if those students could see waste as an unexplored opportunity?
What if there’s an opportunity to help create future farmers?
Well, that’s where we come in! Holy Faith Convent has embraced vermicomposting and it is our mission to help answer these burning questions as we continue to help secure food producers for the future.
A firm believer in agriculture! An innovator and also a teacher at Tabaquite RC.
The level of agriculture displayed at this primary school is commendable. The students are exposed to a variety of livestock, crops and agricultural techniques which set the tone for a technology-based agriculture program. The addition of vermicomposting has further diversified and expanded the technological experience for the students.
All of this lovely work is maintained by Mr. Bent and his loyal ‘Future Farmers’! He is continually in search of new ideas to optimize his operations and reduce the cost of production. His ability to recreate and tweak ideas that he often finds online saves time and money.
Enjoy the slide show which highlights ongoing work at the school.
We are currently expanding the number of schools that we have introduced to the practice of worm farming. Our core mission is to raise future farmers with a greater appreciation for human health and the environment.
People are becoming more conscious of what they eat today and this naturally creates a demand for healthier food. Likewise, bad agricultural practices stemming from poor soil management and over dependence on synthetic agrochemicals can over time erode the natural ability of the environment to sustain itself.
Vermicomposting can reverse this by returning valuable nutrients and organic matter to rejuvenate and revitalize our soil. Furthermore, we believe our future farmers can help us challenge the issue of poor organic waste management which is plaguing this beautiful paradise. Through a variety of educational activities, we will increase their awareness in order to make more informed decisions about waste disposal at home and school.
During the rest of the year, we will be constantly updating our page with the progress of future farmers of the various schools we are working with.
We are now taking this opportunity to introduce you to the students of Brasso RC Primary School and their teacher Mr. Dave Marcus, a very enthusiastic group with a teacher who believes that everyone must eat! He ensures that it’s a positive learning experience by teaching his group how to do things the right way. Their agro-plot is beautifully laid out and has a variety of fruits and vegetables. It’s more than just growing food for this club as they also sell their produce to raise needed funds.
Our Brasso Future Farmers are not shy to worms at all! They could not wait to get their hands wormy! Enjoy the slide show which is a synopsis of our visit to the school.
Just in case you might be wondering where this place is located? Well, the school is in Brasso which is a small village nestled in the central area of Trinidad. It is on the way to Tabaquite if you are passing through Chaguanas or Gran Couva, along the Brasso Caparo Valley Road.
If you would like to adopt a school in your area then feel free get in touch with us and we’ll work with you.
In one of our earlier articles about “all earthworms not being created equal”, we highlighted the role of epigeic type earthworms and their importance in managing high volumes of organic waste. Without them, our health and the environment would have been under serious threat.
Occasionally, however, we are often asked by the general public “why can’t I just use the earthworms in my backyard?” We would like to take this opportunity to share some knowledge on the ideal composting worm. As we indicated earlier epigeic earthworms are preferred for vermicomposting because of their habitat and diet preference. However, not all epigeic species are a qualified for vermicomposting. Suitably qualified earthworms should, therefore, possess the following characteristics:
1. The selected earthworm should be able to survive the vermicomposting environment. This is a controlled environment which is mainly characterized by high levels of organic matter. The suitable applicant should, therefore, be able to acclimatize very quickly to slight variations in humidity, temperature, salinity, and pH.
2. The selected earthworm must be able to efficiently bio-convert varying types of organic wastes. Candidates will be exposed to a wide variety of waste streams and are therefore expected to recycle these wastes in the shortest time possible, producing a finished product that is environmentally safe.
3. The selected earthworm must also display adaptive survival strategies such as rapid breeding without the use of any artificial enhancing stimulants. The success and growth of the vermicomposting system are solely reliant on the rapid development of successive generations. It is therefore imperative that the suitable applicant is able to reproduce exponentially. Please note that more rooms will be built to mitigate overcrowding. Applicants who display a slow-growth and low waste-conversion rate will not be considered.
4. The suitable applicant should also demonstrate a high resistance to pests and pathogens that would tend to affect earthworms.
5. The selected earthworm must be culturable, the behavioral traits of selected applicants in response to handling by hand or any form of mechanization is also very important. The selected earthworm should, therefore, allow for easy sorting and separation of worms from castings. Earthworms are also expected to remain at their place of work at all times as mass departures could be an indication of unfitness for the job.
Please be mindful that, it is based on the aforementioned characteristics that three known epigeic species (Eisenia fetida, Perionyx excavatus, and Eudrilus eugeniae) have been reported as most suitable for vermicomposting.
It has been a month since the UWI Tech-Agri Expo and admittedly it has had a positive impact on business for us at the worm farm. The demand for vermicompost, compost tea, and soil amendments has tripled. There has also been a sharp increase in demand for earthworms as well as numerous requests for the next date for our beginner’s course. Furthermore, many of our past students have felt a sense of motivation after seeing worm farming being promoted as a viable agribusiness.
There was also a general sense of curiosity amongst many of our visitors as it relates to the practicality of this ‘worm farming thing’.
It is understandable why many may have some doubt as there is a general lack of knowledge on the practice locally. Moreover, we have also met persons who have tried and yielded minimal success. It also seems like a dirty, yucky job to many.
The deep underlying question is will this survive? Is this another boom and bust type of business? Can you really build an industry on worm farming?
Worm farming is not novel!
It has been in practice for at least 50 years. Thanks to the pioneers who promoted it during the booming years of the ‘green revolution’. Worm Farming and its by-products are very popular in the developed world. Countries such as the USA, Canada, Australia and the UK have some of the most commercialized worm farms in the industry. Some of these popular farms are Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm USA, Worm Composting Canada, M&B Williams UK and The Worm Shed Australia. Several developing countries such as the Philippines and certain parts of India are also deeply involved in this practice. It is also important to mention that Cuba is considered a leader in Research and Development (R&D) in the vermicomposting industry.
Worm farming – a linkage industry.
An effective R&D program has earned Cuba its global status as a model for earthworm farming. Despite its economic constraints, Cuba was able to implement a national policy that would engage every household and other stakeholders who generate organic waste to recycle and reuse. Vermicomposting was no longer a hobby but rather an effective tool to sustainably manage organic waste. Worm Castings were now a value-added product for sale. This also created opportunities for middlemen (agro garden-shops) to earn their share of the market as they increased its accessibility on the local market to home gardeners and organic farmers. The earthworms derived also created a new opportunity as there was a need for protein in the livestock industry. Earthworm flour was then created to combine with local feed-rations. This well-structured and scientific approach created a solid foundation for the upward growth of the worm farming industry. This also attracted foreign revenue as several other countries consulted with Cuba to implement a similar program.
In other countries such as the USA, the enormous demand on the industry has led to specialized production systems which focused only on culturing earthworms in order to supply vermicomposting farms, fish and chicken farmers, pet shops and similar interests. Some businesses have also evolved to supply earthworm eggs in a clay capsule to be used as an inoculum for soil and new compost systems.
Research into the pharmaceutical importance of earthworms is also further dissecting the industry as preliminary studies are indicating that certain human health challenges could be addressed using extracts derived from earthworms.
While this is not an exhaustive description of the diversity of the industry, it is important to note the pivotal role R&D played in strengthening and sustaining the future of worm farming.
Prospects for the Caribbean community (CARICOM)
Agricultural diversification and sustainable agriculture are two terms which have gained political popularity within CARICOM, however, the exact method of implementation is still unclear. Nevertheless, their implications are quite realistic. We see worm farming as a tool that will practically demonstrate its ability to create new entrepreneurs with diverse interests. It will also simultaneously address the issue of sustainable farming as it closes the loop in most farming operations by creating a zero waste system.
The UWI is leading the way in research by identifying suitable local species for earthworm farming in Trinidad and Tobago. Meanwhile, we are also leading the way in developing the industry through education, training and developing suitable value-added products for the agri-sector. The Caribbean community is at a key advantage position where it could learn from the challenges faced by developing countries and therefore take more informed decisions to facilitate growth.
The green impact of worm farming on our local economies will attract special funding from non-governmental sources to local farmers. The growing interest in organic farming will be strengthened with vermicompost as a reliable source of organic fertilizer.
If we appreciate the history of the industry, then we will accept its growth and success. It is, therefore, the responsibility of our innovative entrepreneurs to evaluate the two primary products (earthworms and vermicompost) and decide what’s next?
We join the rest of the world in celebrating Earth Day. The value of our precious environment should never be compromised for the benefit of Man. More and more we are realizing the need for harmonizing our actions with the natural systems that exist around us. At Boissierre Worm Farm our love for the earth is enshrined in or Motto “Our Earth Gives Your Soil Worth”