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Thank you for checking out my business! 2017 season has begun, and I thought I’d take a moment to talk about how this all started.

In 2012, before Shadyside Worms, I found myself able to practice my gardening and composting hobbies again, after years of renting in different apartments that had little to no balcony space to work with, I was finally moving into a house with a backyard. It provided me with the opportunity to dig in to the earth again, echoing my grandfather’s aged hands that showed me what a trusty pocket knife and rugged fingernails can accomplish.

When I moved into that house, my roommate and I plowed the sod and weeds to build a garden. I put a simple compost pit together for a household of three. Four walls of plywood- about 2′ x 3′ each, and a couple pieces of scrap wood to lay on top of the mix inside. The compost pit was set back under a mulberry tree canopy that rarely let light into one corner of the yard. A handful of composting worms added to the mix set everything into motion, and I finally got the most beautifully rich worm castings I had ever produced. The following spring, Shadyside Nursery gave me the space and opportunity to start my own vermiculture business.

Vermiculture techniques can vary a lot depending on the set up. I first learned about “composting worms” from my friend Adam Fisher when I was living in Baltimore. In the back alley of his duplex home in the city, and he opened up a $5.00 rubbermaid trash can lid to show me some food scraps that he was feeding to composting worms. We were well into July, and the food had began to putrefy, but he grabbed a half of a watermelon he had recently added to show me a few stragglers, “I think most of them are escaping out of the bottom”, he said, “I had to drill a few holes in the can to let the liquid out”. He turned to show me a trail of leachate dribbling down his driveway leaving an odd trail of acidic sediment.

My first experience learning about vermiculture was in truth, not incredibly unique. These moments happen all the time with gardeners, horticulturalists, permaculture students, entomologists, sustainability designers, etc. We all collectively show-and-tell, share tactics and solutions, or at least sympathize about the frustration often involved. One of the driving factors in this constant exchange of information is the fact that we share our past mistakes to help others learn, and at the same time strive to take on a new projects. The root of wisdom and understanding in any of these fields comes from the direct observation of nature and the curious but resilient decision making skills it shows throughout each season or life cycle.

This is Shadyside Worms’ 5th season. Until recently I was thinking it was the 4th actually, but I’m just happy to be moving forward. I have found persistence through the support and passion of urban agriculturists in Pittsburgh that help businesses like this one survive. I appreciate being able to witness this culture first hand, to listen to, and hopefully share at least the wisdom of other people’s stories and experiences.

And one last word about “gardening”. I have nothing against the word, but let’s face it, even in Pittsburgh, one of the greenest cities I’ve witnessed, we are urban agriculturists. I would hope that the work you put into gardening soon turns into a sustainable lifestyle, and a mind for the importance of our natural environment. If I’ve had one mission with this business over the years, it’s to prove that we all have green thumbs, and we all have the ability to create product from the work we put into our efforts. Composting is only one aspect of the many projects ahead of us as we create a healthy, thriving, living city.

Enjoy it!

Travis Leivo

Owner & Chief Worm Officer (CWO)


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