“They are the best pets. They don’t meow, don’t bark, don’t disturb neighbors, they don’t shed, don’t cause allergies and don’t litter. They don’t require any cost for their nutrition” says Tetiana Chuchko, a community activist from Lviv, when she describes her beloved animals — worms. She currently has about 200 of them and kindly calls them “my wormies”.
Interaction with worms can be compared to contact with dolphins on an emotional energy level, Chuchko says. They have a positive effect on her with mood and emotions.
“Worms have five hearts. And I always say if you love them, they will love you five times more”, she says with a smile.
However, ten years ago Chuchko started raising worms not for profit or fun. She holds her own worm farm. In order to set it up, you need to have materials that “you can find in any trash can,” she says.
“Usually these people throw this stuff away. But actually, a home worm farm can look attractive. They have such in America, but here, in Ukraine, they cost about 3–3.5 thousand hryvnas ($120-$140).”
The most important component for a worm farm is the organic waste, which worms recycle into a natural fertilizer or bio-humus.
When Chuchko’s family collects enough organic waste from their kitchen, they cover it with bokashi, a fermented mix of microorganisms to cover the food waste or wilted plants. The bokashi acts to decrease the smell during the decay and rotting process.
The biohumus that Chuchko’s worms produce are then used to raise seedlings. She is pleased with the results and this year almost every seed sprouted and became a healthy seedling. Chuchko claims it’s all due to the humus. This fall the woman expects to harvest between 5–10 kilos of tomatoes from each plant.
In addition to the fact that the bio-humus produced by the worms provides the plants fast and quality growth, the humus is also glued by worm’s inner mucus into granules, which aerate and hydrate the ground. You can add it to the soil once every four years in a proportion of 1:20 to maintain quality soil.
The recycling speed depends upon the temperature and moisture in which the worms live. Chuchko keeps her worm farm in the basement. She provides her worms with proper temperature conditions and food.
“I use to visit my worms 2–3 times a week spending 15 minutes on it. There is no problem to collect the waste and get it to the vault. I am not bothered with the procedure, instead, I enjoy it!”
It’s common for Chuchko to share and loan out her worms. Iryna Myronova once visited a lecture of the organic farming club, where Chuchko is the head. She also borrowed a pair of worms, and afterward, created “The Lviv Wormworker” Facebook page. Myronova uses it to share the information about the initiative and the experience of worm farming.
“Everybody who encounters worm farming, soon energetically realizes how lovely these creatures are! But you need to get used to them. You need time to determine the optimal amount of food and moisture they require. Worms need understanding”, Chuchko says.
The woman explains that worms can even recycle soft paper. She utilizes the other type of paper products in her vegetable garden where she uses large paper, newspapers, and magazines. The smaller paper is dug into the ground because cellulose holds liquid and decays quickly. Chuchko considers this unique way of recycling “income.”
“Ukrainians measure profit in money only. But there are not many people who pay attention that cost-saving measures are profit too. If only people could count correctly, they would understand, that worm farm saves expenses for trash removal. For example, our house for about 25 families, pays for removal only 860 hryvnas (about $32)”.
Chuchko plans to scale the worm farm project. For instance, lately, several families spoke to her. They have the utility room at the attic of the house, and they would like to cooperate so that to organize the worm farm to recycle organic waste.
“Talking about such cooperation — that’s tangible quantity. Because one can have 60% of humus out of organic waste, Chuchko says. I am interested in organizing the first local worm farm.”
Ukrainian waste management still stays the major problem. Even though Ukrainian waste production is one of the lowest in Europe due to the cultural specialty. However, Ukrainian recycling rate stays one of the lowest in Europe. From 90% to 95% of municipal solid waste (MSW) is still landfilled, and almost 20% of landfilles are in critical state at the moment. That is why Chucko’s initiative stays vitally important for the future of Ukrainian society.
Olesya Bida, Vlad Krylevskyi