who in their right mind starts a worm farm?
I have asked myself that question many times over the past few years. To find the answer, all I have to do is look in a mirror or glance at a family photograph. This is how we came to be Central Iowa Organic Fertilizer (CIOF).
It started at the Iowa State Fair (don’t all great stories start at the fair?). My husband Michael, one third of CIOF, decided to buy a tower worm farm. He began looking for worms to put in the tower. We bought worms, put them in the tower, and killed them. So, we did it again and killed them again!
In looking for more worms, we found a Hybrid African Night Crawler. These worms were bred to eat and poop and that they do! We then decided that we should raise worms on a commercial level.
Michael and I had both retired, but needed something new and wanted to produce something that was not only useful, but also eco-friendly. This seemed to be just the ticket. We found a commercial worm farm and, for my birthday, Michael took me on a lovely trip to tour the worm farm (romantic devil)! We were so excited after seeing what could be done, we called our son Colin (the third part of CIOF) and asked if he wanted to join us in this adventure. He jumped at the chance. We have been a small family owned and operated business ever since!
We bought a few thousand worms to get started and like many small businesses, started in the garage. We managed to continue our regime of killing worms, but were not yet discouraged. We knew that we were going to have to have a suitable home for the worms and built a large pole barn, insulated it, and put in radiant in-floor heating as African Night Crawlers have to be kept at about 75-80 degrees year round. Finally, we started keeping our worms alive, but were unsuccessful at making hatch (getting the worm eggs to hatch and raise more worms). Ultimately, we bought a ton, yes a ton, of hatch and figured out how to keep the little buggers alive. The ton of hatch arrived just in time for our wedding anniversary (another treat from my romantic devil husband) and I spent that very special day ankle deep in worm hatch. We started getting baby worms and we were officially off and running.
The first two years of CIOF were spent making product-OMRI Listed organic worm castings (poop). Once we knew we had enough product to offer to customers and fill re-orders, we started marketing the castings. We are now in retail locations from Western Iowa to Eastern Iowa and in many locations in Central Iowa. We sell wholesale to organic farmers and Aronia Berry growers. Because we are OMRI Listed, we provide documentation for growers who are in the process of becoming certified organic by the state. We also provide our product as a fundraiser for local churches and community groups such as the Indianola Lioness Club and the New Virginia Lions Club. We love being a part of our local community and enjoy providing a means to support our local organizations.
Currently we are the proud owners of approximately 800,000 worms and countless babies. We are in the process of doubling in size! By the way, our worms are fed a combination of grains-no garbage or waste products. This means there is no odor! We welcome everybody to come visit our facility. Meet the folks that make the worm poop and a whole bunch of worms!