The Worm Shed’s Kevin Smith arrived in the Chittering Valley in 1983 with nothing but a panel van and a few dollars to his name. His future as pioneer in environmental sustainability, harnessing the power of one of nature’s smallest creatures was at first glance an unlikely path.
Seeking an organic option to improve the quality of his own citrus trees and grape vines, Kevin stumbled upon worm castings – the rich, organic, all purpose, soluble plant food also known as worm poo. After seeing great results, he decided to start generating his own supply of castings, selling them at local markets and educating people along the way. While nobody would bat an eyelid these days to see a sustainable-living product at a farmers market, in the early 1990’s it was definitely an oddity.
“It was virgin ground testing the waters at markets,” explains Kevin. “And I would certainly get strange looks down the pub when I’d start talking about my worms!
“People loved the worm castings, but we found they really wanted the worms, so we went with that.”
The Worm Shed started to get their worms on shelves in nurseries around the state, and when a Mandurah nursery enquired about the product, it proved to be a turning point for them.
“The nursery was part of the large Gro Brite group,” said Kevin. “We went from just a couple of nurseries to over 100 – it got our name out there.”
The Worm Shed is also one of the most popular school incursions around and before COVID-19 wiped the calendar clean, they were booked out five days a week passing their knowledge on to the next generation, and providing professional development to teaching staff. One teacher has been bringing The Worm Shed to her kindergarten class every year for 24 years!
“I had a friend who was a teacher and he invited me to talk to the kids about worms,” Kevin explains. “They wanted it to be hands on – so we started doing the demonstrations outside on large tables, the kids can dig in and explore and get to make their own worm farm to take home.
“It’s great fun. I still get a kick out of standing back and watching 30 kids oohing and ahhing, telling me ‘This is the best incursion I’ve ever had!’ – and we get that from teachers as well.”
A silver lining to the COVID-cloud appeared when people, isolated at home, turned to their gardens and subsequently discovered the magic of worms. Whether driven by a need to live more sustainably, have more autonomy over your food supply or just wanting to get your hands dirty and connect with nature, Kevin says, “Once you use the worm products, you realise how good it is and you won’t look back!”
What do these wiggly waste warriors do that is so special? Worms can process around one third of their body weight in organic waste every day – this not only includes obvious food waste such as fruit and vegetable scraps, but tea bags, coffee grounds, pet hair, animal manure and even the dust from your vacuum cleaner! In return, they give you microbial/nutrient-rich castings which can be used when planting or as a soil conditioner and general plant food. Worm farms also produce a liquid leachate, Worm Wiz, which can be used as a foliar spray, in vertigation systems or to pour around plants. The worm farms can be established in something as large as an old refrigerator, or in a compact Worm Café making them suitable for all property types.
The Worm Shed is a family affair with Kevin’s wife Debbie and their children Samantha, Cameron, Brendan and Mitchell all actively involved at the farm and in the many agricultural shows and fairs that they exhibit at. Kevin’s affable nature and depth of knowledge he has acquired in nearly three decades of worm farming – which the family have also been immersed in – make them a star attraction wherever they go.
“I love talking to people and we’re all on the same page,” says Kevin. “We like the environment and want to do the right thing. I’m passionate about it and that comes through.
“We may appear to have been quite successful recently, but that’s only because of the work we have done over the past 25 years. All roads lead to us when it comes to worms now, and I’m really fortunate to be doing something I have fun doing.”
Kevin says, “I always said if you want to do something different, you’ve got to be the first at it. And it so happened, I did.”
Locally, you can buy The Worm Shed’s products direct from them (www.wormshed.com.au) and also at the Northern Valleys Locavore Store. Keep up to date with The Worm Shed via their Facebook page @thewormshed.