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Cathy Nesbitt: All you need is worms

Reduce, recycle, re-use. Humans invented the phrase, but the lowly worm has been living it from the beginning. It's simple: worms reduce the stuff of compost by dining on it. They recycle by producing gel encased capsules filled with "wormy manure." And their waste, otherwise known as castings, is re-used as nutrient rich fertilizer.

Enter Cathy Nesbitt of Bradford, Ont., a spirited entrepreneur with a great idea and a lifelong passion for the environment.

Nesbitt's story begins with a long-established commitment to reducing waste. Throughout her traditional office employment, she arrived at work every day with a bucket and a request -- that her colleagues give her their organic lunch waste.
Cathy Nesbitt, top left, with company mascot Casey and husband Rick, has merged a lifelong passion for the environment with a great business idea to create Cathy's Crawly Composters. She uses Red Wiggler worms, bottom left, to consume organic waste in a process called vermicomposting. Above right, Cathy plugs away at her manure management site in Bradford.

"I've been composting forever," Nesbitt says, "but when I learned about a worm's life pattern, I realized that I'd found my niche and I began to research."

Nesbitt's niche is all about vermicomposting -- using worms to consume organic waste. And she discovered, among other things, that worm castings are one of the most potent fertilizers.

"We could break our perceived dependency on chemical fertilizers if we relied on worms," Nesbitt says. "And incredibly, their little capsules only release nutrients when the soil needs them -- it's a gardener's dream."

Armed with her research, Nesbitt began to develop her product and Cathy's Crawly Composters was born. The aptly named company sells kits: the proper container, the right worms and complete instructions for optimum composting results.

But a successful business needs more than a great product -- it needs a great plan. And while Nesbitt knew all about the significant and largely unsung contributions worms make to the environment, she didn't know how to relay that message or how to market her product.

The next logical step for Nesbitt was to join a networking group, where she gained access to a large database of people and information.

Not surprisingly, business is brisk and expanding at Cathy's Crawly Composters. Nesbitt continues her research and is overseeing several projects. She offers seminars and regularly attends farmer's markets and fairs.

"Elementary schools are a huge focus for me, since education about these amazing little composters is key. But even at the fairs and markets, I tend to prey on the kids. They love watching the worms so it gives me an opportunity to get my message out to the children and to their parents. I even sell a kid's book on the subject."

A calendar of events and other details can be found at

Nesbitt's next challenge will be to convince the city of Bradford to adopt a subsidized system of single- and multi-unit vermicomposters.

"We need to take responsibility for the waste we produce," Nesbitt says. Judging by the declining condition of our landfill sites, perhaps the Red Wigglers at Cathy's Crawly Composters are the ones to help.

"Besides," Nesbitt adds, "worms have five hearts each -- you've got to love them!"

(Aunie Edwards ( is a Guelph-based freelance writer.)

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