The United Nations- Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has declared this year 2015 as the International Year of Soils with the theme: Healthy Soils for a Healthy Life. Burnaby Red Wigglers published an article in this blog in January 2015, Why is soil so important for us? This article is in accordance with the International Year of Soils, 2015. Actually support for the FAO theme for this year: Healthy Soils for a Healthy Life can be started in the family. Yes, sharing information and action in the family to convert kitchen waste and paper waste using soil critters (compost worms and their symbiotic beneficial soil microorganisms) into healthy soil for plants is the cornerstone for basic environmental education and waste management.
In one of the Burnaby Red Wigglers’ testimonials there is a touching message from the mom to her son and grandson: “Worms, wiggly and alive, what a wonderful gift to give, I guess not for the squeamish. However it was a great gift for my son’s birthday. He does not like consumerism and is concerned about our relationship with the environment. Compost worms or red wigglers are a self-sustaining gift provided by Burnaby Red Wigglers, and include shipping and handling by XpressPost. From vegetable peelings and a bedding of waste paper they produce a gardener’s gold, worm castings enriched with nutrients. These wigglers produce more hard working composters. Also my son has a son, and what little boy or girl doesn’t like squirmy things that might make others squeamish? It will be a fun and interactive way of teaching and enriching our earth, literally the dirt that sustains us.”
The photo above is by courtesy of City Farmer in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada to celebrate the 20 years program of wormshop supported by City of Vancouver. Burnaby Red Wigglers has been supporting this program with the compost worms and worm castings/bedding for over 3 years. The wormshop itself has been going on for nearly 25 years and is probably the oldest workshop program on household vermicomposting in the world. The standard handout material about worm composting in 1995 has developed since then and can be seen at http://www.cityfarmer.info/wormcomposting/. Recently, Burnaby Red Wigglers has a new franchise for environmental education for children, farm and greenhouse waste management, and household vermiculture-vermicomposting with Jendela Alam (Window of Nature) at Lembang, West Java, Indonesia http://www.tripadvisor.ca/ShowUserReviews-g297704-d3930603-…
Why are earthworms, including the compost worms, so important for us? The first education about earthworms came from Aristotle (350 B.C.). He called earthworms the earth’s guts because earthworms act like intestines by processing the soil’s organic matter and turning it into food for the plants. The first information about earthworms in traditional Chinese medicine has been documented since 200 B.C. to reduce fever (antipyretic), to prevent the coagulation or clotting of blood (anti blood-clotting), and to treat diseases and supplement deficiency. Cleopatra VII the last Pharaoh of ancient Egypt has declared the first rule that the earthworms living in the fertile soil along the Nile River should be honored and protected by all her subjects. She declared that removing and killing earthworms was punishable by death for fear of offending the god of fertility. Cleopatra’s idea of conserving the earthworms inspired William Shakespeare in the 16th century to write about worms in Antony and Cleopatra, Act 5, Scene 2. In his famous “Choral” Symphony No. 9 in D minor, the final movement, Ludwig van Beethoven played and put worm into the words the choir sings that pleasure was given even to the worm in the original words of “Ode to Joy”, a poem written by Friedrich Schiller in the 18th century.
The first scientific findings about the role of earthworms in the soil were reported by Charles Darwin in 1881. In his last book: The Formation of Vegetable Moulds through the Action of Worms that was published 6 months before he died, is a monumental book about natural soil fertility and health. Different from his former books about natural selection and the evolution of humans that received many controversies and critiques, his last book about earthworms is well accepted and understood world-wide as the foundation for the development of soil health and waste management. In his last sentences in his book he mentioned: “The plough is one of the most ancient and most valuable of man’s inventions; but long before he existed the land was in fact regularly ploughed, and still continues to be thus ploughed by earth-worms. It may be doubted whether there are many other animals which have played such an important part in the history of the world.”
Earthworms have a long history in the world and the recent findings in the new millennium show that worm castings or vermicompost are an excellent all-natural plant food that is rich in available nutrients, beneficial soil microorganisms, plant growth regulators, plant hormones, and fulvic and humic acids. The mean amounts of essential amino acids recorded from the compost worm tissue are very adequate for good animal feed if compared with the recommendation of the FAO/WHO, particularly in terms of lysine, methionine, cysteine, phenylalanine and tyrosine. In addition to containing adequate protein content, earthworm tissues contain a preponderance of long-chain fatty acids, many of which the non-ruminant animals cannot synthesize. It has been proven that earthworm protein has an excellent range of vitamins, is rich in vitamin B3 and provides a good source of vitamin B12. Pharmaceutical materials such as lumbrokinase and fetidin can be extracted from compost worm protein. Lumbrokinase is a fibrin-dissolving enzyme that prevents hypercoagulation, i.e. clotting of human and animal blood. Fetidin or eiseniapore are antimicrobial peptides that are not hemolytic and are safe for the vertebrate immune system.
Starting household vermiculture-vermicomposting in the family is fun, exciting, and really good for our planet. Participating in this science and sharing the knowledge of feeding the soils are good ways to educate the young generation to nurture the earth, and they will get a reward from nature. Please visit http://www.burnabyredwigglers.com to find the opportunities of household experience and work with vermiculture-vermicomposting. Bintoro Gunadi