SANDY RIVER PLANTATION — It started with 3,000 Red Wiggler worms. Now there’s over 100,000 of them creating organic worm castings (manure) at the Fixit Farm — Home of the Maine Worming Hut.

Since Leslie and Paul Ferguson-Packard started using the castings on plants at their homestead, located three miles south of Rangeley, they have “realized a wonderful benefit” for the soil and plants, Leslie said.

Now they share that with others, by selling bags and bulk loads of harvested castings. In addition, they sell the soil where the worms once lived, as well as older worms to local fishermen for bait, she said.

This month, they received USDA organic approval through Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, she said.

Tired of the ingredients in fertilizers and pesticides, Leslie started researching more organic methods to grow plants in 2012 and soon realized the benefit, she said.

“It’s non-toxic, non-burning and has an earthy smell,” she said. “It’s full of macrobiotic life, which is essential to a healthy crop. Unlike bone meal or liquid seaweed, it doesn’t bring around skunks or raccoons.”

With the original purchase of worms, she moved her husband out of their garage — she needed the room to grow the worms and harvest the castings, she said.

The couple started selling the worm manure as Fixit Soil. The name is based on the idea that “the worm produces a capsule of poo, and these poo capsules are so full of natural nutrients and life, that they actually fix and revive dead dirt,” according to the farm website.

Just a handful can be spread around the plant or dropped in the hole where the seed or plant is planted, she said. A nutritive tea for plants can be made with the castings, she said.

“When you feed the tea to a plant, within just a few days — sometimes just hours later — there’s a different plant,” she said.

Robin Jordan of Robin’s Flower Pot in Farmington used the product on her garlic bed this past fall, she said. The results are expected this summer. She has made the casting tea before and found it to work well.

“Awesome; it did make a difference,” Jordan said of the tea.

Although Leslie raised worms for bait as a child, growing the couple’s “livestock” now has become a full-time job for Leslie. Paul lends his hand to a variety of work for income, including “fixing things” whereby he earned the title “Mr. Fixit,” she said.

Data is kept on worm feeding, along with time frames for the worms to produce cocoon babies. They like heat, moisture, darkness and soil that’s not too acidic, and they are fed organic grains.

They don’t like loud noises and lights, she said.

A machine is used once a week to screen out the worms, cocoons and castings, according to the size of each, she said. 

When they started, the first worms produced about 120 pounds of castings per week. Now, they harvest about 2,000 pounds a week. The product is bagged and sold at locations in Rangeley and Farmington or sold by pail or bulk at the farm.

“It’s labor intensive and a muddy job,” she said of the work “that is now a labor of love.”

She tried the corporate 9-to-5 job in banking and bookkeeping but wasn’t happy.  Her work now includes tending worms, along with selling vegetables, preserves and eggs from the homestead.

The couple handles all aspects of their work including a website, www.fixitfarmmaine.com.

They have other future ideas in mind for their homestead property, including expanding their greenhouse and gardens and creating a place where people can come to learn, she said. Apprentices or even just people who “want to take back their right to be healthy,” she said.

“At whatever level you’re comfortable, we’ll show you how,” she added about raising your own vegetables or chickens.

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