How to Grow & Sell Worm Starter Cultures in Your Spare Time with Very Little Space or Start-Up Capital!
Red Worms – The Tiny ‘Livestock’ with BIG Business Potential?
Many hobbyists who have witnessed the “magic” of vermicomposting naturally wonder about the idea of starting up their own worm farming business. Seeing the way the worms breed – while turning “garbage” into (black) “gold” – it’s easy to get excited about the possibilities!
It’s true, these amazing creatures do offer some excellent farming business potential.
Unlike a lot of other livestock, Red Worms:
-> Have the ability to increase 10X, 20X, even 30X (or more) in number within a few months
-> Don’t stink (when properly managed)
-> Don’t make any noise
-> Don’t require expensive feeds and supplements to thrive
-> Don’t need a lot of “land”, or even much space in certain cases
And the icing on the cake? Both the worms and their “wastes” (castings) are highly valuable commodities!
On paper this can start to look like ultimate, earth-friendly business opportunity…and as many people can tell you, even the “getting started” stage of this type of venture can actually be quite easy and fun!
But the big problem very few people seem to talk about is that…
There’s a HUGE difference between having successful worm bins and building a successful worm business!
1) Consistently raising bulk worms on any sort of professional scale is incredibly challenging (especially with limited space).
2) Launching a serious worm castings venture is probably even more challenging (and usually requires a lot more start-up capital)
Accomplishing both at the same time? Well, you can probably guess how easy that is! 😉
Yet this is exactly what so many enthusiastic, would-be worm farmers set out to do.
I was NO different! So, I can definitely tell you a thing or two about…
Worm Business Failure 101
Back in the spring of 2008, I decided to start up my own “real world” worm business. I was very well-read on the topics of vermicomposting and worm farming. I had even been teaching these topics online for a couple of years by that point.
But the best way to describe me back then was “book smart and experience dumb”! (Looking back now – just plain “dumb” seems more fitting)
- I lived in the suburbs
- I wanted to sell multiple kinds of composting worms, castings, bins, books – even various other products that were only vaguely related to worm composting.
- I was buying most of my worms in bulk – trying to clear a profit by re-harvesting and selling smaller amounts.
- I literally knew nothing about how to systematically raise lots of big worms in limited space.
What could possibly go wrong?! 😉
I was “lucky” in that I at least knew how to build a website, attract an audience, and get sales – but that almost made the situation more frustrating since it was actually trying to fill my orders, and somehow turn a profit where I completely fell on my face!
I was a stay-at-home dad for my (then-baby) daughter, trying to pursue my passion and contribute at least something to our household income. I felt like I was failing miserably at everything!
I somehow managed to keep things limping along for the better part of two seasons, but by late summer of 2009 I was at the end of my rope.
Oddly enough, it was thanks to a major worm order catastrophe that I ended up having…
The Big Epiphany That Changed Everything!
When a customer got in touch about ordering 10 lb of Red Worms it was a welcome change from the norm. It at least meant I could skip the time-consuming re-harvesting process required for smaller orders, and just bag up a 10 lb order purchased from my supplier.
Long story short, a combination of hot summer weather and poor judgement on my part left me scrambling just to save the worms before ever having the chance to pack them up for my customer. They ended up being dumped into a big backyard bin that thankfully happened to be loaded with nice aged, bedded horse manure (that already had some Red Worms living in it). I knew they were going to be fine, but that did little to ease the frustration of knowing I would need to refund the customer and tell them I couldn’t fill their order.
Standing there beside the bin, picking up handfuls of this incredible, worm-loaded material it suddenly hit me like a ton of bricks…
…Everything most of my customers actually needed was right here in my hand. Why on earth was I running myself ragged, constantly scrambling to round up enough worms to hit my weights…only to then toss stressed-out gobs of worms into sterile bedding?!
It made no sense.
In that moment I had an idea.
What if…instead of just refunding the customer and telling her I couldn’t help her, I pitched the idea of sending her 10 bags of top-notch starter culture (with a partial refund of course)?
I really wasn’t sure that she would go for it – after all, she had wanted 10 lb of Red Worms, and I definitely wasn’t going to be able to provide that.
But the magical thing was that I truly didn’t care at that point. I was 100% ready to toss in the towel with my demoralizing, dumpster-fire of a “business”, so I almost wanted her to say no – just so I could finally lick my wounds and move on.
Well, obviously I’m only here writing this because she said “YES”!
And that one “YES” completely saved the business and started me down a path that has been much more rewarding for me, my customers…even the worms!
Hindsight is 20/20 – but looking back, I’m amazed it took me that long to finally clue in!
- Even though I sold worms by the pound, the only way I ever stocked my own systems for years was with worm-rich habitat material taken from active systems. Why? Because it was much more natural and it worked really well!
- Any time I had attempted to start new systems with bulk worms – especially worms that had been shipped – I found there was almost always a period of worm restlessness, and usually at least some population die-back (not growth).
- Just generally, my background in biology/ecology and all the time I spent observing Red Worm populations in unmanaged habitats like old manure heaps made me realize there had to be a better, more natural, way!
What is “Worm Mix” and Why Should You Care?
My very first starter culture product was actually called “Red Worm Culture” (pure genius, I know), but eventually I settled on the overall label of “Worm Mix” for these types of products. My own version has evolved quite a bit over the years, but the underlying principles and core concept have remained the same.
In simple terms, Worm Mix (as I define it) is a starter culture consisting of worm- and microbe-rich habitat material, and a diverse ecosystem other beneficial organisms. Basically, an all-in-one vermicomposting ecosystem that’s ideally suited for starting up new vermicomposting/vermiculture systems.
It offers a fantastic opportunity for anyone looking for a way to get their foot in the door with a worm business, as well as for those with existing businesses looking to expand their product line-up. Unlike the more typical, traditional worm farming methods, Worm Mix production (when done properly) is mostly hands- and hassle-free, so you can put a lot of your time and energy into other things like education, promotion, and customer care.
It’s Truly a “Win/Win/Win” Scenario!
The great thing about the Worm Mix approach is that everyone “wins” – the worm farmer, the customer, and the worms!
How Worm Farmers Win
- It Requires Less Expertise – Worm Mix offers a great way for newcomers to get started with a worm business. Yes, proper education/guidance is still really important, but once you truly grasp the concept and the guidelines it’s pretty easy to get good results.
- It Requires Far Less Time – The core method I teach is almost completely set-it-and-forget-it. Once your bins are going you can turn your focus to other things!
- There are Fewer Headaches and Hassles – this is lower-nutrition production approach so less chance of major pest invasions, “protein poisoning”, and other hazards that can cause major problems in more typical worm farming beds.
- Worm Mix Can Sit – Unlike bulk worms, Worm Mix is like a self-contained ecosystem so it doesn’t need to be harvested the instant your production period is finished.
- It Ships Really Well – I’ve had shipments stuck in transit for a month twice, and both times the worms were fine.
How Customers Win
- Super Simple Set-Up – Starting up a new system with a Worm Mix is a dream! They just combine it with bedding and a small amount of food in a bin and away they go!
- Fewer Hassles – Worms have a habitat they are already used to, and their densities are closer to a natural level, so there is much less chance of restlessness. All that living material helps newbies compensate for common mistakes as well.
- It’s Often Less Expensive – A bag of Worm Mix will usually cost less than a pound of worms, so it can be a more economical choice for people wanting to get started with worm composting.
- Faster Castings – The worms come with lots of rich, living habitat material which includes plenty of castings. This means customers will be that much closer to their very first castings harvest!
How Worms Win
- Less Harvesting Stress – Unlike bulk worms, Worm Mix harvesting doesn’t involve the same sort of screening, concentrating and overall handling, so it’s more likely the worms will remain healthy.
- More Quality Habitat – The worms in a Worm Mix stay with their habitat material (they don’t get tossed into mostly-sterile bedding like peat or coir), so it’s like they bring their “home” with them. This helps them adjust to their new system much more easily.
- Lower Densities – The densities in a Worm Mix will be much closer to (productive) natural densities so their won’t be the same crowding stress as with bulk worms.
- Better Protection – Just generally, the worms end up much better protected when they come with a lot of habitat materials so they tend not to be as affected by getting bumped around, hot/cold temps, or sitting for periods of time.
Plain and simple, Worm Mix is a much more natural approach that’s perfectly suited for helping vermicomposters (especially new ones) get a system up and running effectively!
The Power of the “Worm Mix Batch” (WMB) Method
-> I was heavily dependent on large-scale outdoor systems (often not even on my own property). This also meant that…
-> I was at the mercy of climatic conditions – I had to shut down in the winter, and usually put the biz on “pause” for part of the summer.
-> My Worm Mix prep was a lot more involved (and time consuming) – worm-rich material needed to be collected, often concentrated and cleaned up, then bagged.
-> The end product – while still great for my customers – wasn’t as consistent/standardized as I would have preferred.
Don’t get me wrong – this was still a major improvement over what I had been doing pre Worm Mix! But there was definitely some room for improvement.
All this changed dramatically in early 2019 when I hit on a strategy for systematically producing Worm Mix indoors, using relatively little space. It was a total game-changer!
It’s what I now refer to as the “Worm Mix Batch (WMB)” Approach.
One bin. One batch. Set it and (mostly) forget it.
Productive, natural worm farming in an optimized environment.
- I started much earlier, and was able to go later in the season.
- I was far less dependent on outdoor systems, and was virtually unaffected by climatic conditions.
- My batches of Worm Mix were far more consistent and predictable (in a good way – lol)
- Worm Mix prep got a lot easier (and faster)
Why an Optimized Natural Approach is So Powerful
- The Ecosystem Does Most of the “Work” – When you provide the worms (and other organisms) with the resources and conditions they need to thrive, they don’t need nearly as much help from you.
- Explosive Population Growth – Low worm densities + those great conditions and resources serves as a trigger for a breeding/feeding frenzy. This translates into great ROI (especially when you grow your own starter worms).
- Much More Balanced – Even if you don’t get things quite “perfect”, Mother Nature just has a way of balancing things out over time when you stick to the WMB guidelines.
- Near Perfect Starter Ecosystem – The initial “frenzy” stage followed by what some might consider a period of “neglect” gets this starter culture primed and ready for a new system. The worms will be more than ready to take advantage of any new food and bedding your customer’s have to offer! 😉
WMB – It’s As Easy As 1-2-3
There are really only 3 key areas you need to focus on to get your little Worm Mix venture humming along like a well-oiled machine!
1) Get Organized
First, you need to assess your own situation, come up with a basic gameplan, and gather your starting supplies. There is a lot of flexibility in terms of the materials that can be used effectively in WMB bins. You’ll want to use locally-available materials that you can get your hands on consistently. Starting to gather these before attempting to start up any bins will greatly help with your overall efficiency. Naturally, you will also need to get at least enough bins for your first set of WMB bins, and get ready with a supply of starter worms. If you are already an active hobbyist, or even more serious, you’ll probably have plenty of worms already.
2) Get Started
Next, you need to pull the trigger and actually get moving with your Worm Mix production. This might seem obvious, but it is amazing how many people get stuck endlessly preparing to get started. Even if you just treat your earliest batches as a “practice round” (actually a great strategy) there is an almost magical momentum that comes from simply getting the ball rolling. The beauty of Worm Mix Batch production is once your bins are set up you can mostly focus on other things.
For example, you can use the time to…
3) Get Connected
Notice I didn’t say “get selling” or “get promoting”? Obviously promotion and making sales are going to be important for any business, but it’s the people that really matter. Things get so much easier (and feel less icky) when you focus more on relationship-building than “driving sales”. This can be as simple as sending e-mails to people in your region who might be interested in what you are doing. eg When I first started, I e-mailed the regional waste management department to ask about their vermicomposting workshops and let them know I had a new vermi-venture. They literally asked me if I wanted to take over the workshops! It wasn’t something I felt ready for – but it was a powerful lesson in the value of even pretty basic outreach. Most regions will have a wide range of different clubs and other organizations, online groups etc related to composting/gardening/green living. If you are a real people person, I recommend getting out there and actually meeting people, offering to give presentations etc.
Have You Ever Baked a Cake?
Setting up Worm Mix Batch bins is kinda similar…but easier!
It can be a little daunting when you set out to set up your first fleet of WMB bins. Like baking a cake, there are some core guidelines you need to stick you if you want to be successful. BUT, I can tell you from my own first-hand attempts at baking…the good news is that WMB is far less of an “exact science”! 😆
-> We want a diversity of different materials, including some from natural sources.
-> We want our habitat to consist of mostly bedding and “living material”.
-> We want there to be a much smaller amount of “food” (than those habitat materials).
-> We want everything to be moist but not sopping wet.
-> We want to have a fairly small starter population of worms. (Kinda important to have worms, right?)
Also, unlike cake making, it is super easy (and highly recommended) to set up multiple WMB bins at once!
Once our bins have been carefully prepared with love, we close them up, put them in a climate-controlled location and let them do their thing!
OK – You’ve Probably Got Questions!
If you are still reading, it probably means your at least somewhat intrigued by the possibilities the Worm Mix Batch approach (and Worm Mix in general) has to offer. But I’m guessing there still might be some questions on your mind. Here are some common ones. Just keep in mind that “it depends” is almost always the most accurate answer to ALL worm farming questions! 😉
“How Much Does It Cost to Get Started?”
The costs involved in getting started with the Worm Mix (Batch) approach will vary based on what type of bins you decide to use, how many you start with, and whether or not you already have your own worm population to draw from. If you do have worms and will just start with a handful of bins you should be able to get started for $50 or less. If you want to get more serious and/or you are starting completely from scratch, your costs will go up from there. What’s great is that once the bins are paid for, the ongoing costs should be quite low (and Worm Mix sales will obviously offset those).
“How Much Can I Make?”
If you went with a very modest 7 bins/week set up schedule, and sold batches of Worm Mix for $30 each (how much you charge will depend on multiple factors but this is a reasonable estimate) you could potentially earn as much as $840/mo. 14 bins/week – $1680/mo. NOTE: using the bins I recommend, the total number of bins required at the 14 bin/week level should only take up about 27 sq ft of floor space. These might not seem earth-shattering income numbers – but keep in mind there is plenty of potential for ramping things up further, and of course diversifying your product line-up over time!
“How Long Does This Take?”
Worm Mix production times can depend of the type of Worm Mix you are producing, the materials you are using (and how you set things up), and of course ambient conditions. There are hybrid approaches that can be as little as 3 to 4 weeks – but my typical recommendation for Worm Mix Batch bins (in climate controlled environment) is 2 to 3 months. With the minimal management required, you will likely be amazed by how quickly that time can pass – and the key idea is to make sure you are regularly setting up new systems so you have a steady, ongoing supply.
“How Many Worms Will Be In My Worm Mix?”
People can get really hung up on exact worm amounts. I get it, but it’s very important to emphasize that it matters far less than you might think…AS LONG AS you at least start with enough worms and give them enough time. With longer production periods you can start with fewer worms. With shorter production periods you should start with more worms (this doesn’t necessarily apply to “hybrid” approaches mentioned earlier). It’s as simple as that! Here’s a fun little example of worm population growth just to illustrate what I mean: I started an experimental system (that was definitely less optimized than a Worm Mix Batch bin) with only 25 adult Red Worms. After 12 weeks I was able to find 538 worms and 577 cocoons (and it’s safe to say at least some were missed). Thats a 21.52X increase in worms alone! That quantity of worms + cocoons + the worm-worked habitat material could certainy work as a decent little starter culture! But, no – I am not suggesting you only start with 25 worms, in case you are wondering. 😉
“Can I Do This Outside?”
Outdoor Worm Mix Production is absolutely possible (that’s how I did it for years), but the Worm Mix Batch approach is intended as an indoor strategy. Your results will be far more consistent and predictable in a climate-controlled environment. Which leads us to…
“How Much Space Will My Bins Take Up?”
Using the bins I recommend, and a 14 bin/week set-up schedule (mentioned earlier), the total amount of floor space needed should be less than 30 sq ft. In other words, you likely wouldn’t even need to dedicate an entire room to your little operation. Other types of bins will likely use up more space, but you should still be able to keep things manageable. A basement can be a good option, as long as it doesn’t get too cool in the winter.
“How Do I Harvest the Worm Castings?”
The Worm Mix Batch approach is strictly intended as a starter culture production method. Any castings produced get passed along to your customer as part of the rich, habitat material. This is actually an amazing, somewhat-under-the-radar benefit of a Worm Mix. Your customers will likely be able to perform their first castings harvest a lot sooner than if they had just started their system with typical bulk worms!
“Ok, All This Sounds Great! How Can I Learn More?”
I’m so glad you asked! 😆
I’ve put together an educational package called…
Easy Worm Farming
If you like what you see and you are ready to roll, I would absolutely love to help you make it happen! Those who know me well, know how committed I am to helping people get more from their vermicomposting and farming efforts – especially the folks who make an effort to support my work! I am particularly excited about this new training. The topic of Worm Mix has been near and dear to my heart for years, and the concept itself has played a very important role in my life for nearly 15 years.
Since I know not everyone is on the same path, or has the same budget for education, I’ve provided you with two different package options.
VERY IMPORTANT – Please note there are various discounts available for members of the Worm Farming Alliance (WFA), Compost Guy Ultimate (CGU), as well as for my e-mail subscribers. If you are involved in any of these and want to join EWF, please make sure you have your discount code before placing you order (unfortunately, I can’t apply these discounts after the order has been placed). Feel free to get in touch for assistance.
Easy Worm Farming
What You Get
- Easy Worm Farming Guide
- EWF Quick-Start Guide
- Educational E-Mail Series
- Helpful Resources Library
- Suburban Worm Farmer Content Vault
- Web Business Training Library
- Done-For-You Educational Content
- VIP Support
- Bonuses – “Critter Biz” Report, Bentley’s Red Worm Population Growth Calculator
- All future package updates and add-ons
This is the package for people who are excited to dive in with the Worm Mix Batch approach, and want access to ALL available resources!
** Don’t Forget Your Discount Code! **
My “30-60” Iron-Clad Guarantee
I stand behind ALL my educational products – and want to see my customers actually succeed!
I’m giving you a full 30 days just for your initial evaluation of Easy Worm Farming. You can pepper me with any and all questions you have, and I am more than happy to help you get the ball rolling with your own Worm Mix production.
After that you still have a ANOTHER 60 DAYS to decide if Easy Worm Farming is for you! (Yep, 90 days in total)
If at any point during those additional 60 days you decide you want a no-hassle refund just say the word. No harm, no foul, and we can still be friends!
It’s Time to Grow (and Share) Your Worm Wealth!
If recent history has taught us anything, it’s that turmoil, world “problems” and overall uncertainly are more than likely going to be the new norm. These are not times to just curl up in a ball and wait for things to get better. These are the times to develop new knowledge/skills, grow valuable assets, and help other good humans do the same! What’s so powerful about the Worm Mix Batch method is that it helps you grow a highly valuable product in a mostly-passive way.
The time is going to pass either way…likely more quickly than most of us want. It’s an amazing feeling when you have something to show for it (without the need for a “blood, sweat and tears” investment of time and effort)!
-> Earlier I mentioned a recent fun experiment where 25 worms turned into 538 worms and 577 cocoons in 12 weeks. That’s a micro-asset that could easily help someone else experience the joys of vermicomposting!
-> Back in fall of 2020, another “fun” project involved setting up more than 40 small set-it-and-forget-it bins, intended simply as a way to bring in some of my outdoor worms and expand my herd significantly over the winter. I had zero intention of selling them – but months later I did in fact end up selling most of them as a lower-grade (less expensive) Worm Mix to help with bill-paying. Technically, I could have completed two higher-quality Worm Mix production cycles in the same amount of time – but you better believe I was still so grateful I had invested the small amount of time to get these bins set up!
As alluded to earlier, this isn’t just about “making money” or building and hoarding assets, though…not even close!
With worm power comes great responsibility! 😆
Worm Mix starter cultures offer a fantastic way to help “spread the worm”!
- Excellent educational assets for schools.
- Perfect for local gardening clubs and other organizations.
- Awesome gifts for friends and family…even total strangers!
Each bag/bin of mix is like an amazing unit of future vermicomposting potential!
It might seem over-the-top and cheesey, but you can truly make a big difference in the lives of others with worms. I know I have – and that alone has provided far more value to me than the income I’ve generated
I’ve purchased several of Bentley’s courses over the years (along with most of the offerings available from others) and continue to be impressed with both the content and the value that he offers. Bentley’s love for all things worm is apparent in everything he produces.
I have embraced your worm mix concept as the best method to get people involved and have them be successful with worms both as a composting method for their food scraps and a source of casting for all their plants. When you sell them a worm kit as I do, with a plastic tub filled with mature worms, juveniles and cocoons along with all the rich living material they have been raised in, you start a conversation explaining the benefits of purchasing a complete worm mix and can lead them to the resources they need to accomplish the goals that they have in mind. Along with the material to succeed you give them the knowledge to succeed.
I really appreciate all the information that you have shared about your experiences and results of your various methods of raising worms.The knowledge I have gained has been a major factor in the way I have structured my business model and one of the reasons I have been so pleased with my progress in the worm business. I cannot thank you enough and look forward to your continued educational contributions.
…you should know that your website was a big help for me when I got into vermicomposting back in 2010, and in many ways, that was the launching point that propelled me at a neck-breaking velocity into a whole new lifestyle, so I owe you a great deal of thanks…
…Thanks for all that you do, and all that you have done!
I think I have been in at or near the ground level of most of your major projects over the years and that is because you have great ideas and I believe in you and the things you are working to accomplish.
You have had an enormous impact on the world of vermiculture and inspired many people, my friend.
I’ve done a few classes with Bentley. I find they have all proven to be highly valuable information, that leaves me with a thirst for knowledge. His natural “worm mix” approach to vermiculture just makes sense. Providing the worms what they need in the most natural way. Bentley is an amazing teacher, extremely patient, and a humble guy. He’s extremely easy to approach with any and all questions ( mine might have been a little excessive 🤣). He never made me feel like I was bothering him, a true teacher. He provides a rich array of materials in various formats to accommodate any type of learner, which makes his teaching style right up my alley. I would highly recommend any and all of his courses and learning materials.
All purchases help me to continue my work on these projects, and to produce valuable free-content for an even wider audience! It also tells me this is work that matters to you as well! Please don’t ever hesitate to get in touch with ideas/suggestions regarding the sorts of courses and content you would like to see more of!
Your friend in worm farming,
Bentley “Compost Guy” Christie