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 2016 we had diverted 7,566 pounds of food waste, bringing us to a total of 47,017 pounds in 6 years that have been removed from the landfill and created over 10,000 pounds of fertilizer. 

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, Western Technical College and the People’s Food Co-op.  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 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.

The vermicompost project serves as the cornerstone for vermiculture education and community outreach programs, including tours of the vermicompost facility for local schools.  In 2016 we provided opportunities to 250 visitors in 18 tours, including many school-aged children.


For more information contact Andrea Schaefer, our Vermicompost Program Coordinator:

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