Gallatin Conservation District – Vermicomposting Bin Project Profile
Sponsored by: Montana Food Economy Initiative (hosted by AERO)
Funded By: Western SARE, US Department of Agriculture, & National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Project Summary: The Gallatin Conservation District built a Vermicomposting Bin for our Education and Outreach Center with the help of many volunteers. This bin will serve as an educational tool for the community and will help us compost food waste and yard trimmings from our Education and Outreach Center Gardens which will provide nutrients for our raised beds and potted plants. The bin we built is a continuous flow through model. As the worms work to compost everything, they leave behind nutrient dense castings, as you add more food and bedding material to the bin, the bin fills up. Once it’s full the bin has metal bars at the bottom so you can use a tool to scrap the castings to fall through the bottom. The worms should stay near the top of the bin with the food so it makes sifting the castings for worms easier.
Project History and Motivation: The Gallatin Conservation District is located in Manhattan, Montana and serves Gallatin County. Our mission is to “promote and guide the conservation and management of natural resources in Gallatin County.” To do this, the Gallatin Conservation District works hard to provide education on a wide variety of natural resource and conservation topics. We have an Education and Outreach Center which hosts raised beds, native plants, demonstration gardens for pollinators and xeriscape landscaping, and an outdoor educational classroom. This space was built in 2014 and we’re always looking for ways to add educational components to the space. We wanted to add a place where we could compost more of the yard trimmings and food waste from the gardens but didn’t have space for a conventional composting set up. We opted to go the vermicomposting route because it takes up less space and adds a cool educational component to the gardens! Now youth and adults alike who come through our garden space can check out first hand how worms break down organic materials and we can use the leftover worm castings to provide nutrients to our raised vegetable beds.
Vermicomposting project Outcome/Successes: This project was a huge success and has already been actively serving it’s purpose. Our first workshop hosted around 20 people, all who got to learn about vermicomposting, the worms used, the benefits of vermicomposting, and got first hand experience in setting up a worm bin system. The kids who helped us build the bin got some great experience working with their hands. We have more plans to host a youth education event where the kids will learn more about vermicomposting and will get to be more artistic by decorating the sides of the worm bin, painting what is going on on the inside. The educational opportunities are endless with this bin. We’ve also already been able to add in things from the garden. The breakdown of materials is slow for now because their were a lot of juvenile worms int eh cultures and they have a lot of material to go through since we just started the bin, but you can see a difference every day! The warmer weather will help move the worms along as well. We can’t wait to start using the vermicast in our gardens to see how the extra nutrients benefits the vegetables and flowers we grow.
Next Steps: We will continue to learn about vermicomposting ourselves and share our knowledge with others. We will look for opportunities to provide educational experiences with this bin and the worms inside for young and old alike. Once the worms have had more time to get established and are starting to go through the materials in the bin faster, we’d like to experiment with taking donations of food waste from people in the community to help feed the bin. Or it’s something we’ll incorporate into our youth summer education programs. We most likely will have plenty of materials anyways from the gardens, our office, and from the staff’s own personal food waste, but we’d like to get he community involved as much as possible.