WHY WE STARTED WITH THESE WIGGLY CREATURES
Three years ago we didn't know anything about vermicomposting,
and now we swear by worm poop
HEALTERRA is a social enterprise of Source One Serenity, 501(c)3, a non-profit organization that empowers our veterans to reclaim their sense of purpose through outdoor activities and land stewardship.
We started Source One Serenity in 2016 with outdoor camping retreats–fly fishing and hiking–and we knew the the need for these type of activities for our veterans is indisputable.
But we struggled to identify financial sustainability to fund activities for our veterans. In 2017 we began to brainstorm ideas.
One of our friends, a post-9/11 veteran, had an idea for us that he already implemented in Colorado–a social enterprise called vermicomposting. It involves using food waste, which is converted through the worms’ specialized digestive system into a nutrient-rich fertilizer called vermicompost, or worm castings. This soil amendment nourishes and preserves our soil, already damaged and depleted due to the widespread use of synthetic fertilizers. In addition to the considerable environmental benefits, manufacturing and selling our product will provide the ideal employment milieu for our veterans.
In November 2017, we started a test phase using worms and a small bin. We collected more than 2 tons of food waste and harvested more than 1 ton of this soil amendment.
In 2018, we also started raising funds for equipment, including worm digester (continuous flow-through vermicompostings system), polytunnel, mixer, a flatbed truck and a tractor. We have already raised $100,000 for planning expenses and startup equipment! It was exciting and satisfying to work with the funders, our community, businesses, and our local government.
Honored to be a recipient of the BUSTER RONDEAU AWARD to honor the memory of a long standing Tribal Board Member and founding member of the Cow Creek Umpqua Indian Foundation on January 9, 2019 at Seven Feathers in Canyonville, Oregon. Buster Rondeau was a WWII veteran. The grant award from the Cow Creek Umpqua Indian Foundation was to purchase the blueprints for the worm digester.
First prize for the audience vote at the annual Roseburg Area Angel Investors Network (RAIN) at Umpqua Community College on November 30, 2018. The name West Coast Wigglers was the first name of the worm farm, which is now HealTerra.
We also received grant awards for advising and equipment (a digester and a polytunnel as a weather shelter for worms) from:
- John A. and Phyllis S. Courtney Fund of The Oregon Community Foundation,
- Janette G. Drew Fund of The Oregon Community Foundation,
- Jim & Dianna Murphy Fund of The Oregon Community Foundation,
- Olsrud Family Fund of The Oregon Community Foundation,
- Crane Creek Family Fund of The Oregon Community Foundation,
- Reser Family Foundation,
- Walmart Community Fund,
- The Ford Family Foundation, and
- Pacific Power Foundation
A worm digester (or continuous flow-through vermicomposting system, about 5 ft x 56 ft) can process up to 100 yards a year.
Source One Serenity has been run by volunteers since its inception. For the first time, and with funding from The Collins Foundation and Weyerhaeuser Giving Fund, a part-time general manager and farm worker were paid. Revenue to sustain funding for these positions will come from worm castings sales.
A grant award from the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) was assigned for vehicles, and we have purchased a flatbed truck for collecting food waste and a tractor to operate the farm).
In collaboration with Douglas County, CCD and Umpqua Valley Farm to School, we have received a federal award under the Community Compost and Food Waste Reduction grant program in 2021.
Since December 2021, we have already collected more than 5 tons of food waste from three organizations: Rosburg VA Medical Center, UCAN Foodbank, and Wolf Creek Job Corps.