Marcia Iannone has worms - and lots of them. She's not embarrassed by her infestation. She's actually quite proud of every single one, especially the baby worms that she oohs and aahs at as they slither in her hand.
"I probably have half a million worms here," Iannone, 57, said from her home in Rancho Cucamonga.
Iannone is an environmental consultant and a vermiculture specialist who runs her Internet business, Wormpoop.com, from her home where she sells red worms and worm castings, known as worm poop. "Worm poop is the most vital thing worms create because it's sterilized and it's the best fertilizer you can get," Iannone said. "It's a natural, organic fertilizer."
Marcia became interested in this process while employed as the re! cycling coordinator for an environmental program at Cal Poly Pomona where she worked from 1984 through January 1998.
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"My goal was to introduce this to people in the community, in the United States and across the world so they could start this process in their own backyard and reduce waste," Iannone said about the project. "People could save lots of money and the city could save lots of money if people would do this in their own backyard."
Through her research, Iannone discovered that food waste, including egg shells, fruit peelings and coffee grounds, can be turned into a rich organic natural soil by using worms to eat decaying material and harvesting the castings she calls black gold.
"It's a living soil that's good for the environment," Iannone said.
Wormpoop helps restore nutrients back into the soil and helps plants grow stronger with deeper root systems making them more drought tolerant, she said.
"It doesn't help the environment when we throw valuable nutrients down the garbage disposal or send it to the la ndfill," she says on her Web site, www.wormpoop.com . "In fact, when we throw valuable nutrients away we stop the continuous life cycle process of things being born, living, dying and being reborn again."
In 1992, Iannone began experimenting at home with vermiculture composting using red worms to reduce food waste and it wasn't long before she realized how useful worms were in reducing food and paper waste and creating a rich soil through their worm poop.
"We need to put back into the soil what we've taken out," Iannone said.
In 1992, she soon implemented a pilot vermiculture composting demonstration project on a four-acre site adjacent to the university as part of a campus recycling program, according to her Web site. The site was an important educational tool teaching basic concepts necessary to restore and regenerate the soil to a healthy state, while implementing the four R's of recycling: reducing, reusing, recycling, and restoring the environment.
In 1993, Iannone received a $4,000 grant to further the research on vermiculture composting, including designing and constructing worm-bed boxes and a worm harvester to separate the worms and castings, according to the Web site. The entire project was constructed using recycled material collected from campus.
The project also provided community demonstrations and materials essential to educate tour groups in the vermiculture process, while demonstrating and promoting the concept of recycling by re-utilizing waste material collected from campus in the construction of the worm-bed boxes and in the construction of a worm harvester and casting separator, according to the Web site. Iannone would also give demonstrations to schools and youths groups.
"Kids would study the worms and learn how vital they are to the environment," Iannone said. "We need them to restore our soil."
However, her favorite part was watching the children interact with her worms that s! he let them name.
"They get really excited when they realize the y can hold a worm and let it tickle your hand," Iannone said. Because of her love of nature, Iannone and her husband try to recycle everything and he is in charge of their composting pile at their home.
"I really would encourage people to do horticulture and composting," she said.
Since all of the harvesting of the worms and worm poop is done manually at her home, Iannone is limited to the amount of worm poop she can produce, but her husband always lends a helping hand. "When I see the twinkle in her eye, that's what I enjoy," Ronald Iannone said. "She's so enthusiastic about it. If she gets joy out of it, I'll help her."