Jim Couts, known in Marietta, Ohio as Dr. Worm, joined the PittMoss team and brought along his extensive knowledge of agriculture and love of worms! We thought we would pick his brain on the importance of worm casting and why he feeds his worms a steady diet of PittMoss!
PittMoss: Tell us a little bit about yourself. What got you interested in PittMoss?
Jim Couts: I’m 73 years old and in various roles, I’ve been in agriculture all of my life. I consider growing food one of the most important professions on earth, more important today than ever. For decades, I’ve been composting and using worm castings to improve soil and increase yields. But during my lifetime I have witnessed massive losses in the number of farmers, gardeners, and available, usable, healthy soil to grow healthy food. Discovering new technologies and apply them to old fashioned methods to improve ways we grow food must become one of our nation’s highest priorities. I’ve discovered that PittMoss is becoming a vital component in that effort. PittMoss applies new technologies to converting newsprint into bedding and feedstock for worms. Worms hold one of the keys to meeting our future food needs.
PM: What is worm-casting and why are worms so important?
JC: Charles Darwin’s last major study focused on the role of worms in soil production. He concluded that without worms the human race would cease to exist. The principle is simple. Worms eat organic material – leaves, grass, food waste, wood, cellulose – making soil nutrients easy for plant roots to absorb. Worms grind up these materials and “cast” them into the soil. In that process, they remove toxic materials from the organic waste and inject plant friendly microbes into the soil. Without worms and their castings, poop if you will, plants won’t grow, food won’t be produced, all creatures needing food will die – that includes human beings. Industrial agriculture, with its heavy use of toxic chemicals, kills worms. We need to replace them by growing more healthy worms and producing more castings. PittMoss helps do that.
PM: Tell us a little bit about your worm casting business
JC: It started out as a hobby. Eventually my hobby outgrew the space under my kitchen sink, then my garage and basement. Word spread around town especially since I do a lot of speaking to garden clubs. Eventually I had no choice. To meet demand, I started a worm farm and sold worms and castings. Once you start charging for these little critters and their castings, you must promise quality and consistency. By “quality” I mean a rich, black, organic soil amendment full of microbes. Consistency depends heavily on what you feed your worms. If the feedstock changes, the castings change. One way to improve quality and consistency is by using PittMoss both as a bedding for the worms and as a way of creating an environment for worms to thrive and for microbes to grow.
PM: What were you primarily using for your worm-casting business before PittMoss?
JC: Before I went into business I ripped up newsprint for bedding and then added peat moss and then coco coir to food waste and manure. The peat moss and coir added texture to the feedstock but it also was very difficult for the worms to digest and so the finish product, the castings, were full of little brown specs. I no longer use peat moss in any of my soils and soil amendments. Mining peat negatively impacts the environment in dramatic ways. Coco coir is more environmentally friendly but remains difficult for worms to digest. My customers wanted to know they are purchasing pure castings. Coir and peat moss, which have not actually been digested by the worms, add nothing to the quality of the castings. PittMoss, however, has been fully digested and adds to the quality of our product."
PM: Why did you make the switch to PittMoss?
JC: I’m one of the few people who didn’t discover PittMoss by watching Shark Tank, but a friend who did called and suggested I contact these folks. I drove to Pittsburgh, brought back a bag in my pick up, began using it as bedding for my worms, and then mixed it in with the feedstock itself. Keep in mind, unlike peat moss and coir, the worms eat PittMoss just as they do with all the other organic materials in their feed stock. Quality of the castings improved, microbial content increased, the texture improved, the color of the castings improved, the worms were both healthier and happier. Why is it important for them to be happy? Because happy and healthy worms lay more eggs and make more babies.
PM: Did you notice a difference in the output, or production, of your worms?
JC: PittMoss adds to the quality of castings because it contains some organic nutrients which remain in the final product. It adds to the quantity the castings produced because the worms are able to consume and digest PittMoss much more quickly than just shredded newspaper, coir, peat moss, or shredded leaves. In other words, it takes less time for the worms to consume the feedstock.
PM: If someone is interested in using PittMoss for worm casting, how can they start using the product?
JC: You can email me at jcouts@Pittmoss.com or you can call 888-842-3553. We will help you decide how much you need and where to buy it, including how we can ship it to you.
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On this Earth Day we would like to pay homage to the environment in which we live, work and play, and provide a tribute to a variety of topics regarding sustainability.