Building Soil with Food Waste

2016 © Maija Karkanen

Vermicomposting is the process of breaking down food waste using red wiggler worms.  As worms eat through waste, they produce a well-balanced, nutritious fertilizer call worm castings, or as Hillview calls it, VermiGold. 


In December 2010, as the result of a grant received from UW-La Crosse, Hillview and UW-La Crosse signed an agreement on a joint vermicompost project.  

In September 2015, Hillview, UW-La Crosse and Mayo Clinic Health System–Franciscan Healthcare entered into a partnership in which Mayo would provide a garage on their property at 921 Ferry Street as a home for Hillview’s four vermicompost units. 

Turning garbage into gold

2016 ©Maija Karkanen

The vermicomposter is one of the largest vermicomposters of its kind in the Midwest. At peak production it has the capability of turning 400 pounds of food waste per week into rich worm castings fertilizer. In 2018 we diverted 15,163 pounds of food waste and our worms converted it into a rich vermicompost which regenerates soil. 

Vegetable waste is taken mainly from UW-La Crosse food services. It is also taken from Mayo Clinic Health System—Franciscan Healthcare cafeteria’s kitchen, and Western Technical College. The veggie waste is used to produce the worm castings fertilizer. The rich worm castings are harvested in the spring and fall, packaged as VermiGold and sold at local retailers, including Ace of La Crosse, People’s Food Co-op, Viroqua Food Co-op, and Full Circle Supply. Sales of VermiGold help support Hillview programs. The vermicompost is also donated to local school gardens, the Boys & Girls Club Mathy Center garden, the Kane Street Community Garden and Washburn Community Garden.

In April 2017, Chris Schneider, Honda Motorwerks President, generously donated a NEV (Neighborhood Electric Vehicle) to the vermicompost project.  The Worm Mobile picks up hundreds of pounds of food scraps which diverts it from the landfill and is fed to our red wiggler worms.  

The vermicompost project serves as the cornerstone for vermiculture education and community outreach programs, including tours of the vermicompost facility for local schools.

For more information contact Natalie Kostman, our Program manager:


Press conference on Tuesday, April 18, 2017 (Left to right): Vicki Miller (Hillview Board Member), Cindy Schireman (Mayo Clinic Health System Sustainability Coordinator), Chris Schneider (Honda Motorwerks President), Andrea Schaefer (former Hillview Program Coordinator), Teri Wildt (Mayo Clinic Health System Community Engagement Director), and Larry Ringgenberg (UW-L University Centers Director).

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