Worm farm could turn Lincoln school food scraps into compost

Farm Forum

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — The Nebraska Farmers Union is seeking a grant for a worm farm that would turn Lincoln school food scraps into useful compost.

The group’s Jeremiah Picard told the Lincoln Journal Star (http://bit.ly/1FPXmEv ) that he’s applied for a grant of more than $169,000 from the Nebraska Environmental Trust to fund the project. A grant decision is expected in April.

The project goals are to reduce the waste that goes to the city landfill, to create a natural product that can be used to improve community and school gardens, and to give students chances to learn the benefits of composting.

The project would be housed in a greenhouse-style structure that would include a 40-foot-long by 5-foot-wide bin that could house about a million worms. Picard said the facility could process between 250 and 375 pounds of food waste per day. He plans to start with about 100,000 worms, which can reproduce rapidly.

Food scraps would be taken to the future worm farm site and be ground up by machinery. Heated air forced through the mixture would increase microbial activity, Picard said. The resulting material would be fed to red wiggler worms, which Picard prefers above other species because they do well in close conditions and don’t burrow.

The worms excrete undigested material, soil and bacteria, creating what’s called worm castings, a prized natural fertilizer that helps plants use nutrients already in the soil.

The Nebraska Farmers Union plans to give the compost to farmers, schools and community gardens. Eventually the organization would like to sell the product and, possibly, some red wigglers as well.