Worm businesses dig their growing success – JSOnline

Worm businesses dig their growing success – JSOnline.

Nader Nazemi

Tom Chapman has built a big part of his business on worm poop.
Chapman is among worm farmers in Wisconsin who have seen demand for castings – the byproduct of worms digesting organic matter – soar as consumers seek an earth-friendly fertilizer for use on everything from flower beds to golf courses.
“We’ve been growing steadily, but the last three to four years our organic-side existing customers, they tripled and quadrupled their volume without us doing anything,” Chapman said. “It’s been bigger and getting crazier the last three to four years.
“We’ve been crazy, crazy busy.”
Same goes for Wisconsin Redworms in Richland Center, said Dan Corbin, co-owner of the business.
“This has probably been our best spring, business-wise, that we’ve ever had,” Corbin said. “It’s big time.”
In Neillsville, Kent Luedtke, owner of Clark County Crawlers, said his business has also wiggled to new heights.
“We can’t produce enough,” Luedtke said. “I started this worm thing as a semiretirement project for just a little supplemental income. Now, it’s turned into a worm factory.”
We’re not talking a few worms. These guys are handling the wiggling masses.
“We’re now moving 1,500-pound batches of worms to our distributors,” Corbin said. Typically, there are about 1,000 worms per pound.
Luedtke is moving a lot of worms, too. “We probably average 30,000 to 50,000 worms a week going out,” he said.
“We wholesale large amounts of worms,” he said. “Other worm farmers who are having trouble getting quotas met, we sell them breeder worms.”
Luedtke is a licensed grower of Tasty Bait and Wiggle Worm brand products developed by Chapman’s company, Unco Industries Inc.
Unco deals in worm poop by the rail car load.
The company has been around for 37 years and its growth has typically hovered around 8% to 10% a year, Chapman said. As Americans have embraced the green movement in recent years, the growth has jumped by 40%.
This year, Chapman moved the company into a building that is five times larger than the space the company previously had occupied. He has had to turn down orders because the company can’t fill them.
“It’s a good problem to have,” he said.
While worms are prolific poopers, “You can’t just double production overnight,” Chapman added.
The company is handling 1.5 million worms a month.

 

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