Worm Farming for Profit: A Home Business for Kids or Adults

Raising worms to sell to fishers for bait makes a perfect summer business for kids.

| June/July 1992

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    Worms are excellent bait just about anytime. With a little care and work, you can make $800 in a good summer!

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Mother Nature sure was thinking about the fisherman when she dreamed up the earthworm. She also might have been thinking about the perfect summer home business for kids. What kid hasn't happily dug into the dirt in hopes of collecting a pail full of worms to watch? Well, this summer it doesn't have to be just child's play: Since an earthworm is probably the most reliable bait in the world and fishing is one of the most popular pastimes in the country, there can be money in them there dirt piles, if you decide to try worm farming for profit.

Finding and Collecting Worms

Known as angleworms, dewworms, gardenworms, nightcrawlers, rainworms, ground, and red worms, earthworms are especially plentiful in old lawns and wild grasslands. But worm burrows are often well-hidden, and the entrances are sometimes plugged with leaves, seeds, twigs, or pebbles. To get them on a moment's notice, the soil may have to be turned over with a fork or shovel. Still, during humid weather, worms do come out of their tunnels to feed, mate, or migrate. Worms are known to travel considerable distances in order to migrate, and they will always emerge during rainstorms at night, and occasionally during the day, too.

Seldom, if ever, will they be on the surface when winds are blowing strongly. But in clear weather, after dark, earthworms can easily be gathered on the surface of almost any piece of fertile soil. The best method: Search under large trees or bushes with the aid of a dim light, such as a flashlight fitted with a red lens or covered with a piece of very light cloth or paper. On a selected night, worms can readily be brought to the surface by thoroughly sprinkling the ground around their burrows before sundown. Collecting worms is a cinch then. However, should the temperature fall below 40 degrees, forget it—you'll have to dig them out the following day.

Starting a Worm Farm

Wooden boxes 14" × 18" are recommended for raising worms outdoors. They can be stacked easily then, and held apart with small blocks of wood. When arranged in tiers, such a system provides for ventilation, drainage, and easy access for watering. The boxes should be supported above the ground to a height of at least 6". This will prevent the wood from deteriorating and permitting the critters to escape. Fill these containers with one part manure, one part screened top soil, and one part peat moss.

Next, sprinkle in either cornmeal or poultry mash to provide the ration of carbohydrates, protein, and fats needed for good nourishment. If mash is used, hold down the amount to a maximum of one pound for each cubic foot or filler material. In the case of cornmeal, one half-pound per cubic foot will do the job. Mix in either of the foods uniformly, before anything is wetted, and place a layer of alfalfa or hay into the bottom of each culture box. Earthworms favor hay or alfalfa as food, too, and they will improve drainage, along with preventing the compost from sticking to the box bottoms. When all of the culture material is prepared, each box ought to be about two-thirds full.

Put around 500 fully-matured worms in each container and cover them lightly with the combined material. In order to keep the surface dark and damp, cover the boxes with two thicknesses of damp burlap. Sprinkle a little water on the surface once or twice a week, depending on the temperature and weather conditions. The food supply can easily be checked by periodically examining a handful of soil. When additional feeding becomes necessary, an excellent supplement consists of five pounds of commercial rabbit pellets, one pound of soybean meal, and a pound of sugar. Moisten them to form a soft crumbly mass and stir them into the culture. But really, worms will thrive on kitchen or garden wastes, spoiled fruits and vegetables just as well.

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