‘Worm wrangler’ finds a business model wriggling in the dirt in Washington Co.
KINGSBURY — By day, Bill Richmond wears a tie and suit coat and handles a variety of public communication duties for various clients as a vice president of Behan Communications.
But increasingly in the area, he’s becoming known for his work with worms — about “40,000 to 50,000” of them if he were to guess — and refers to himself in his business email signature line as “chief worm wrangler” for his fledgling Adirondack Worm Farm.
Proudly displaying his operation on his 40-acre Kingsbury property Tuesday, Richmond talked about his multi-pronged business model that offers composting red wiggler worms for $35 a pound, worm-waste fertilizer called vermicast for $15 for 5 pounds and curbside composting pickup services for $20 every other week or $35 weekly.
“In six months, we’ve taken more than 1 ton of food waste out of the waste stream,” said the Staten Island native who always wanted property in the country.
The impact of that, he said, based on EPA calculations, is equal to 18,400 miles of driving emissions.
Richmond has clients throughout the area from Warren, Washington and Saratoga counties, including one gardener in Fort Ann who is comparing his vermicast — including a liquid “cold-brewed tea” — against traditional fertilizers.
The gardener, Paul Messina, said he started tomato and pepper plants from seeds in March, some in commercial soil and some in the vermicast.
Not only did the vermicast seeds sprout first by up to a week earlier, the plants when planted in outdoor soil grew bigger with bigger tomatoes and peppers than others fertilized with his usual Miracle -Gro.
“And with the tomatoes, there were more on the plant,” he said, adding that he, to date, hasn’t had to pay for the worm castings and “tea” because “I’m the lab.”
“But I would pay for it if I had to,” he said.
Richmond said some customers buy worms to start their own compost fertilizer operations while others forgo dealing with worms and just buy the vermicast to improve their gardens.
“Some say they like the concept, but say ‘not in my house,'” he said. “But they are contained and there’s no odor if you do it right.”
Although he has two sons, ages 17 and 19, and although they do help when asked, Richmond said the worm operation is pretty much his baby. He said he wanted to do something with the farm they live on and worms fit his already full-time work schedule.
In recent months, he’s also been taking his worm show on the road with presentations at Crandall Public Library, garden clubs and the Queensbury Recreation Department. He said the technology surely isn’t new, but a lot of people aren’t aware of the benefits of composting worms.
Mark Behan, Richmond’s boss at Behan Communications, said his company has always tried to hire “the smartest, most interesting people we can find and they tend to bring raging curiosity and diverse interests.”
“We’ve had singers, actors, world travelers, gourmet cooks, a marathoner, a champion drum major, a handicapper and a rock ‘n’ roll guitarist. Bill is our beloved resident farmer. When he raised chickens, he brought us fresh eggs. Now he’s our first vermiculturist! It’s an interesting place to work,” he said.
But what about the prospect of the former journalist turned public communication specialist being labeled as the local worm guy?
“I don’t have any qualms being known as that wacky worm guy,” Richmond said with a chuckle.