Friday, July 29, 2016

Vermiculture In The Workplace

Before the term vermiculture was coined, before we had written language, and before we started drinking coffee, worms were hard at work breaking down organic materials and returning nutrients to the soil. We love building soil, and we love good coffee.  So when we met Chris Shepherd of Cafe Altura at a worm composting workshop, we were happy to continue the connection by bringing a worm bin to his workplace.  Chris and his team are enthusiastic about keeping a worm farm going on-site, and we are stoked to help them out. 

Ventura Cooperative's soil restoration efforts rely on vermiculture to build soil diversity and nutrient rich materials to feed plants in the gardens we take care of. Sometimes it can be frustrating to keep a worm colony alive and well, so we provide consultation visits with each worm farm we deliver, to make sure everyone benefits in the transition, including the worms. 

Setting up a worm bin is easy, it's the maintenance that takes a bit more finesse.  What you need is a box, moist newspaper strips, some compost and worms to start.  We provide all these items and a worm colony already established in the farm.  We knew Chris would have ample coffee grinds, which is a great addition to the scraps and other items worms like.  We set up the worm farm right next to the Cafe Altura staff kitchen area, to make it easy and accessible for everyone to use.

After about a month, we came back to Cafe Altura to check on the farm and answer any questions. We took the farm outside and harvested the castings together.  It was in perfect condition.

By having a hands on visit, we were able to share valuable information with Chris' team.  We considered what worms need to live. Moisture, air, food, darkness, and warm (but not hot) temperatures. Bedding, made of newspaper strips or leaves, will hold moisture and contain air spaces essential to a thriving worm habitat.  Everyone was able to see this knowledge at work in the vermiculture environment which helped a lot.  And they were able to take super rich castings back home to their gardens.

We're excited!  Chris and his team at Cafe Altura are located by the Surf Brewery and a few other businesses that are interested in starting their own vermiculture habitats.  They are early adopters and eager to create a more sustainable culture in this area.  Let's help them out! We traded some of our service costs for their organic coffee.  Come on over and have a cup, it's really good!

Special thanks to Madison Choate and the Resource Conservation Partners for connecting us all!

Relevant Links:
Cafe Altura
Resource Conservation Partners

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Helping Hands Permaculture Field Trip

On July 12th Ventura Cooperative hosted a permaculture workshop at Art City Gardens for eighty children attending Camp Helping Hands.  The event started a week-long gardening program for these young people to experience hands on learning and development around the principles of earth care, people care, and fair share.  We were delighted to begin the journey with them and honored to be asked to facilitate the visit.

We called on a few of the best permaculture specialists in Ventura to create learning zones in this dynamic space.  Lynne Okun creates heartspace gardens that provide an environment for healing and regenerating human connection.  She led the groups in collaborative juggling, a game where everyone participates and reliess on each other to pay attention.  Eric Werbalowski, founder of Ventura Organic Landscapes, shared his deep knowledge of ecology by hulling, sprouting and planting heirloom lima beans that each participant took home with them.  Rob Barnett, board member of VCCOOL, connected the garden to the community.  Imagine a walkable, bike friendly, with edible gardens downtown.  A place where tree swings and cooperatives thrive.  Kyra Rude and Ron Whitehurst of Rincon Vitova, better known locally as "The Bug Farm" showed the captive audience how insects create balance in the garden.  They used a bug vaccuum and went on safari looking under rocks for signs of life.

We've all been working to build and maintain the Art City Gardens so that the space could provide a canvas for knowledge and skill-sharing in the community.  Having Camp Helping Hands join us for an afternoon here was a high point for us.  It makes what we do worth it on so many levels.  Not only are we opening up space for sustainable ecology, we are passing the knowledge on to the next generation.  Thanks to everyone who made this possible, especially Audra and Amanda for all the behind the scenes organizing. Keep growing!