Worms are his secret weapon
Story and Photos by Dwain Hebda
There’s not a whole lot that meets the eye at Ed and Pat Griffin’s sprawling gardens that the couple didn’t build, plant, or tend themselves – from the gurgling water feature to the rows of vegetables to the riotous color of their daylilies. And that includes the low-slung buildings out back that house the worms.
“I’ve been in the worm business for years and years,” says Ed, who grew up in North Carolina. “By 8 years old I was selling red worms and Catawba worms off and on.”
Ed and Pat took a break from worms during a stretch when they lived in Wyoming (“We raised a few but it was just too cold,” Ed remembers), but jumped back into the business when they landed in Arkansas nearly 30 years ago.
At first, the couple found a bigger market for the invertebrates themselves than for the worms’ byproduct –castings. But time and trends have turned that equation on its head. “When we first started down here with worm castings, people thought it was a joke,” he said. “Now with everybody wanting to do organic garden it’s really picking up. It’s going to be a big thing.”
“Castings” is a nice word for excrement. In the worm buildings, Ed constructed shallow wooden bunks that he fills with peat moss to create a bed. He stocks it with the worms, sprinkles on a daily portion of powered worm superfood of his own recipe, and lets them do their stuff.
Ed separates the worms from the castings through a special screening drum, then cures and dries what he’s collected. Bags of his no-odor, all-natural fertilizer, which looks and feels like fine dark soil, are sold via distributors all over Central Arkansas. “It’s very low nitrogen; the enzymes and stuff in it is good for everything you’ve got,” he said. “It will help a plant take up anything else that you’ve already got available for it. I mean, you can grow plants.”
If Ed’s natural charisma isn’t enough to sell a person, his gardening skills will. Shortly after arriving in Arkansas, he discovered daylilies (Hemerocallis) and was immediately hooked. Ed and Pat now plant around 400 dazzling varieties on their property, both for their own enjoyment and to stock Griffin Daylily Farm and Produce, their homegrown business. He’s hosted visitors from as far as New York and shipped all over the nation. “My problem is, I’ve never seen an ugly daylily,” he said. “One day when it’s blooming I think this is the most gorgeous daylily I have ever seen. Then the next day there’s another one.”
Griffin Daylily Farm and Produce (Find them here on Facebook) also features large garden plots crammed with tomatoes, peppers, and other produce. Everything you see is grown bigger and better with worm castings. “I just love to watch the things grow,” Ed said. “It’s really wonderful to grow flowers and have people to come out and say, ‘Ahh, they’re so beautiful.’”
It makes it worthwhile the time you put into it, especially now that we grow vegetables naturally without using the chemicals and stuff. You have people come out and you got vegetables that you know are going to taste good and it’s going to be good for them. They’re not eating those herbicides and pesticides. That’s what I like to do.”