Neighbor Sit Down: George Hahn, Owner of California Vermiculture

Photo courtesy Pacific Legal Foundation

George Hahn of Cardiff is a thinker and a do-er.  He’s the type who quietly runs a successful business from his home that even his close neighbors know little about. George is the founder and owner of California Vermiculture, LLC. He developed an organic natural product that works like a B12 injection for plants by delivering specific nutrition to the leaves and roots to strengthen and fortify all parts of the plant, allowing it to grow faster and produce more fruits or vegetables.

It all started in the early 90’s, about the same time George moved to Cardiff. California had recently passed legislation that required a reduction of materials being delivered to landfills. This resulted in landscape companies paying higher fees to dump their green waste. George started thinking about how he could use the green waste in a business model.

Then George learned about earthworm castings (worm poop) being sold by a farmer in Fallbrook who was feeding his worms the yard trimmings then selling the castings as a soil enhancer. George had an idea to get landscapers to pay him to take their waste, then he could feed it to worms and sell their castings to nurseries – a triple win.

“I needed to find a way to turn a waste product into a better product”

Using the empty lot next to his home in Cardiff, he built worm beds and then purchased 100 pounds of earthworms to live in them.  He experimented by feeding them various types of waste, including the landscape trimmings. He was successful at keeping his worms alive and well-fed so he moved them to a five-acre lot in Carlsbad and then to a 20-acre worm farm in Chino.

George wanted to find the best food for his worms so they could make better castings. He spent countless hours studying their biology and interviewing scientists and concluded that adding kelp and minerals to their food greatly improved their output. By conducting growth tests he found that plants fed with his kelp and mineral infused castings grew significantly bigger and stronger than those fed with castings made from worms fed only green waste or manure.

With these test results, his new product, “Wormgold”, was born and he began selling bags to local nurseries. But business was slow because each sale required hours of education about the little-known benefits of natural organic worm castings.

Then in 2000, the Garden Editor for the LA Times wrote an article about using Wormgold in her own garden. Instantly the demand for Wormgold shot up and nurseries began to call George.  Today Wormgold is in over 200 retail nurseries, including locally at Armstrong, Dixieline, and Grangetto’s.

A banana tree infected with Fusarium Wilt. Courtesy fusariumwilt.org

George has proven his worm castings with Central Valley farmers as well as backyard gardeners.  And now his spinoff product, Wormgold Solution, a liquid form of Wormgold suffused with oxygen and other secret ingredients, is being tested on banana farms in the Dominican Republic. The world’s banana crop is under severe stress and George is using his organic Solution along with his knowledge to treat a test crop.

Worm farm in Vernalis, CA

But it all starts with the earthworm. Today his castings start at a 100-acre worm farm in Vernalis, California. The worms live in 8 foot wide rows that are over 2,000 feet long and if you placed the rows end to end, it would be 15 miles long.  But even this isn’t enough to keep up with demand.  George is currently exploring ways to increase his castings supply.

George connects the roots of his passion for his business back to growing up on a farm in Indiana. He said, “I saw firsthand how the earthworm population vanished the year we began using the much-touted fertilizer, anhydrous ammonia. This toxic liquid killed all the earthworms on our farm. That same year disease and pest issues surfaced as very real problems. I feel like I am participating in replacing the lost soil biology that I helped destroy as a boy.”