Vermicomposting, the process of producing compost with earthworms, began in the United States in the 1940s. It started in the household with kitchen wastes being processed with the “red wiggler” (Eisenia fetida). The first use of the term “vermicomposting” (coined from vermis, Latin word for worm, and compost, decomposed organic matter) was in 1980 at the First Applied Workshop on the Role of Earthworms in the Stabilization of Organic Residues held at Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Since then, the science and technology of vermiculture (earthworm raising) and vermicomposting have advanced. Of note are the pioneering work of Roy Hartenstein and his co-workers on the use of earthworms for the stabilization of sewage sludge in Syracuse, New York and the studies of Clive Edwards on the role of earthworms in soil ecology in the Rothamstead Experimental Station in England.
This writer was invited by Dr. Clive Edwards, professor and head of the Soil Ecology Laboratory of the Ohio State University to visit commercial vermicomposting farms and exchange experiences with researchers in the U.S. My visit was sponsored by a collaborative project supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.