Our vermicompost farmers’ story is like something you’d see in a movie, set very fittingly right outside of the SoCal beach city of Malibu. Our principal character is Arne Freeman. In his previous life, before he and his business partners became AHO’s worm castings producers, Arne had a luxury eyewear store in every hotel on the strip in Las Vegas. It was retirement and a long string of serendipitous meetings that got Arne up to his ears in vermicompost, A.K.A. worm poo.
Several years back, while trying to help his wife Joan raise money to save retired dairy cattle from the slaughter, he suggested selling compost. Arne couldn’t have imagined that idea would eventually morph into Dynamic Pastures, a small company that produces super potent organic fertilizers made in Camarillo by Arne, George, Bryan, their employees Connor, Mikey, and Jose, and a team of nearly a million earthworms.
Arne and Joan met Uncle Vern when they were AHO subscribers in Malibu and Vern introduced them around at the World Ag Expo in Tulare when he found out they were interested in composting. It was there that Arne caught the vermi-fever and decided to learn everything he could about farming worms.
He teamed up with a neighbor, George Keossaian, a home designer and builder with 25 years of experience to get going with their new venture into the soil. And while George’s job history of designing and building homes for celebrities such as Tom Petty and Ringo Starr continues to color this already colorful story, you’ll really be hearing the twilight zone music with the addition of their third partner, Bryan Spangle. George had placed a four-wheeler up for sale on Craigslist, Bryan called, turns out they knew other. Bryan invited George inside when he was dropping off the four-wheeler, and lo and behold, there on the kitchen counter, was an open book about vermiculture. Bryan had been studying up and was interested in getting into the business of worm farming. He joined the team, bringing with him 25 years of experience in landscape architecture.
What ensued was ten months of traveling across the United States visiting worm farms, 100s of hours of research, the leasing and outfitting of a greenhouse adjacent to an organic produce farm, and getting the African Nightcrawlers and red wigglers settled into their new homes. And that’s how three guys from Malibu became our AHO vermicompost farmers.
“The creation of this worm farm has been a labor of love. We’re passionate about it,” Arne said on a tour of the facility. “We’re making sustainability in action, we’re slowly ridding farmers and growers of toxic chemicals, and making available to home gardeners what we call Mother Nature’s miracle.”
In the greenhouse you’ll find something akin to a mini carnival of worm themed amusement park rides. The process starts out simple enough with dirt, worms, and plastic buckets, and then quickly escalates to built-to-order, state of the art machines that separate the castings from the worms and cocoons, brew vermicompost teas, and make vermicompost extract.
As the worms eat, digest, and eliminate the dirt they live in, they create a natural fertilizer that restores soils and won’t ever burn plants: castings that look like teeny tiny clumps of mud, smell like fresh dirt, and are enriched with microorganisms that actually unlock the existing minerals in the soil enabling plants to use them. The root structure is the first part of the plant to benefit from the amended soil, the benefits for the rest of the plant are soon to follow, whether veggies, flowers, or trees.
Arne with the finished product in front of the bucket city where the worms create this organic fertilizer
“In just one handful of the worm castings are millions and millions of microorganisms. It’s fascinating stuff,” Arne said, scooping up two handfuls from a giant mound of harvested castings in the greenhouse. “I got Ds in biology in high school, but here I am at 75 years old, studying microbiology and loving it. It’s wonderful stuff and it does great stuff for the soil.”
The main clients for Dynamic Pastures vermicompost products are farmers and growers, landscapers, vineyards, and golf courses. Because of Arne’s relationship with Uncle Vern, we’re able to offer four pound bags of the worm castings for home gardeners. They should be mixed into the soil at a ratio of 20 percent castings to 80 percent compost or soil mix or spread in flower gardens about an inch thick. Arne tells us that incorporating castings into your soil every sixty days for six months is enough to restore the biology to your garden soil, and when you feed the soil well, your plants are invited to the feast.
Burlap bags of Arne’s Organic Solutions Premium Worm Castings are available as an add on with your AHO Subscription box.