Local worm wrangler develops composting service

AJ Delgadillo checks on his compost bins.

GOSHEN —  A 23-year-old Goshen resident is fighting for sustainability, one worm bin at a time.

“I realized that we don’t have a good way to deal with our food waste,” AJ Delgadillo, founder and owner of Post-Waste Worm Farm, said. “Because landfills are partially sealed and because of the weight, when (food waste) doesn’t have access to oxygen it won’t break down, or it will break down anaerobically. When we throw our food waste in the trash and then it gets to the landfill, it either fossilizes or it breaks down into acids and methane.”

Delgadillo began worm composting and found it to be such a rewarding process that he’s taken it on as a means to help others maintain sustainable disposal of their own household food waste.

“I already have a number of households that keep me busy,” he said, now operating out of 14 large worm bins that fill an entire second bedroom at his home. “For one person it can be a lot, but I am excited to see it expand and potentially grow into a large operation where I can rent a larger space and have more people contributing.”

Delgadillo hosts a booth at the Goshen Farmers Market to make it easy for households to sign up for his composting program. Participants receive a collection bin in a sizing of their choice, and are encouraged to swap bins out for clean ones as often as they choose. Then Delgadillo takes any collected bins back home and feeds them to his red wiggler worm colony of nearly 20,000 strong.

Delgadillo prefers to use red wiggler worms, because he said they require less work.

“I don’t have to heat them. You can put them in your basement and they will be fine. The temperature you already keep your house is the temperature they like,” he said. “They’re colony animals and they like to cuddle each other. So as long as they have each other and their food, they are happy.”

Last week, Delgadillo reached a composting milestone, with his worms eating 20 pounds of food scraps in a week’s time.

Composting, while a fairly simple process those who participate in it, does have several ground rules that potentially interested folks should be aware of, especially when worms are involved. For starters, meat and dairy products are off limits when it comes to composting.

“The fats in it will break down too quickly for the good bacteria, and the bad bacteria will sneak in, and it will rot and get nasty,” Delgadillo explained.

The worms also cannot eat things like lemons, limes and onions.

“Worms have the same kind of skin that’s on your eye, so anything that would hurt your eye will hurt the worms,” he added.

Overfeeding is also a concern in composting with worms.

“What the worms actually eat is part of the food that is breaking down or ‘rotting.’ They don’t eat foods that are ‘rotten,’ so there’s this weird middle ground where you want there to be stuff to break down, but if you see a bunch of goop, then you are in trouble.”

After the composting process is finished, Delgadillo also sells the resulting worm castings for $18 each.

“The money from all of that then covers the cost of harvesting (the worms) as well as space rental and utilities,” he said. “My goal is not to make a bunch of money, my goal is to help the community be more sustainable.”

Individuals who prepay for one year of the composting service can get a gallon of compost for free.

“I think worms are really cool, but it’s not the only way to compost and as long as people are composting, they are doing good,” he said.

For those individuals, Delgadillo also sells bins for home composting instead of using his composting service, some are even small enough to fit comfortably under the kitchen sink.

The service is $10 per month and people can drop off bins full of future worm food as often as they would like to his location at the Goshen Farmers Market.

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