Sometimes a handful of soil can spark a family’s interest in sustainability. Vincent and Colleen Sicca came to ASAP’s community storybooth to share how their family gained a greater understanding of how food is grown.
Vincent and Colleen wanted to teach their three children about the life cycle of a tomato plant and how growing food is influenced by different factors in the environment.
“We did it almost like a science experiment where we took a tomato plant and we used just organic soil and then we used the organic soil with a mixture of the vermicompost,” Colleen explains.
Before we find out the results of the experiment, what exactly is vermicompost? “Vermi” means worm, and compost is organic matter that has been decomposed. Vermiculture uses worms to speed up the composting process, turning food waste into nutrient-rich soil.
The family’s hypothesis was that the compost created by worms would result in a better tomato plant. They were surprised by how much faster the plants grown in verimiculture matured and the flavor differences between the tomatoes.
“It was really amazing,” Vincent says.
Their kids loved the activity and it got Vincent and Colleen thinking—could they turn their family’s excitement for vermiculture into a business? They were concerned about local food waste going to landfills and wanted to establish a community service that would turn food waste into soil.
“What we do is we collect food waste from the community, residential and commercial, and we divert it from going to a landfill,” Vincent explains. “We have monthly subscriptions and containers that they deposit their food waste into. We then collect them on a bi-weekly basis and compost it with worms. Then we return a portion of the compost back to our customers, another portion goes back to community gardens, and then there’s a little portion that we actually sell.”
They named the company WormaCulture and they were surprised by how excited residents were to receive their composted soil.
“It really wows people to see that worms turn this pile of garbage that we’re going to send to a landfill into something that’s the most natural fertilizer on Earth. And when they see their product coming back to them, they’re hooked instantly and they’re talking about it kind of like we were talking about it back in 2017 with our children. It’s eye opening experience,” Vincent says.
Some of the soil is delivered to local community gardens, including the Shiloh Community Garden in Asheville and Black Mountain Home for Children, Youth, and Families.
Home gardeners often seek out vermiculture as a way to reduce the waste that comes with food preservation. Vincent tells the story of a customer who ordered extra containers to dispose of her canning waste and left his family a gift in return.
“She left us homemade salsa and dill pickles so that was really rewarding to see someone that’s using our service to divert her canning waste to give back to us as a family. We give her compost; she creates vegetables in her garden. She creates salsas and pickles, gives them back to us, and supports our business. It’s really nice,” he says.
Now that their vermiculture experiment has shifted from a fun activity to the family business, Colleen hopes to pass on some of the lessons she’s learned about starting a local business to her kids.
“I just want to teach them that there are so many things out there, so many things that you can try, so many things that you can gain from learning how to do things locally, and just to be involved in the community,” she says.
Hear more stories from our community storybooth at www.asapconnections.org/broadcasts