Organic waste management: Anna de la Vega’s Story
Organic gardener Anna de la Vega travelled to Cuba and the USA in 2016 to investigate approaches to food production and worm composting. Her Fellowship has afforded her greater opportunities to initiate and promote sustainable organic waste management practices in the UK. Anna's Fellowship is supported by the Royal Horticultural Society.
With global topsoil depletion reaching alarming levels due to intensive agricultural practices, there is an urgent need to explore alternative methods of food production that utilise our existing resources. Vermicomposting (worm composting) is a relatively underdeveloped practice in the UK, yet it has the potential to underpin resilient farming systems that sustainably manage organic waste from both the agricultural and food sectors.
On her travels, Anna, who is the founder and director of The Urban Worm, a social enterprise promoting the benefits of vermicomposting, spent five weeks observing how the process of vermicomposting was successfully providing sustainable solutions for mainstream organic waste management and agriculture.
She was particularly impressed by her visit to Monroe Correctional Facility in Washington State. Their Worm Farm was one of several successful collaborations Anna witnessed between institutions, councils and communities. The Worm Farm supplies the local county council with organic fertiliser and provides other correctional facilities throughout the US with worms, plans for DIY worm farms and expertise. Monroe also donates worms and DIY worm farms to charities and care homes in the USA.
After returning to the UK, Anna established a worm farm in Nottingham at a horse rescue centre, demonstrating the capacity of worm farming to sustainably manage animal waste. With the help of additional funding from WCMT, Anna also initiated a worm farming programme at Birmingham prison, reducing waste within the prison and equipping staff and inmates with knowledge and understanding of the benefits and the process of vermicomposting.
Anna will conduct more overseas research after being awarded a grant from the Heathrow Exporting is Great Campaign, and has already travelled to Austria to visit Vermigrand, an industrial worm farming operation near Vienna.
She has been afforded more opportunities to raise the profile of vermicomposting in the UK as a guest lecturer at Nottingham Trent University’s agricultural department, and through an invitation to speak at the London Landscape Show at Battersea Park in 2017. With support from the Royal Horticultural Society, Anna also shared the findings from her travels at the 18th International Vermiculture Conference in North Carolina, USA, in 2017. She is the first person from the UK to speak at this conference.
Anna continues to develop the work of The Urban Worm and was awarded a place in 2017 at the School for Social Entrepreneurs, funded by The Big Lottery Fund and Lloyds bank.