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New greenhouse showcasing the benefits of vermi-composting

Posted on September 20, 2023 by Sunny South News

By Erika Mathieu
Sunny South News

A Lethbridge County-based business is leading the way in sustainable practices for their locally-grown produce.

The Venue of New Hope, a coffee shop, greenhouse, and event venue space located just minutes from Park Lake, is doubling down on environmentally-sustainable practices as they grow their business.

The venue is working toward growing its own produce for the cafe/coffee shop at their on-site greenhouse, which, in addition to producing locally-grown produce, uses the power of red wriggler worms to divert compostable waste from landfills, while producing high-value, nutrient-packed soil “castings”, covered by the worker worms in on-site composting bins.

This process, known as vermi-composting, is essentially utilizing earthworm digestion and aerobic decomposition to produce rich organic matter containing a wide range of plant nutrients and beneficial microorganisms for growing plants and new produce.

“These worms are different than your everyday garden worms, which prefer cold. These are very specific for composting and they like it hot,” Irwin explained.

The conditions and nutrients made by the worm castings facilitate faster germination as well. “everything is faster and more efficient,” Irwin explained.

“You just leave them alone. You let them do their thing and you just keep adding food,” Irwin explained, tossing in a rogue piece of paper and covering the bed back up.

“Once in a while they get water because you don’t want it to dry out too much. But too much water, they drown,” and added the worms do best in dark conditions. The compost beds where the red wriggler worms reside are also covered in newspaper or cardboard. Irwin added, “(there is) always carbon because that puts more micronutrients in (the soil) because the carbon when that breaks down adds more to the soil. You always have to make sure you have some carbon base and then your greenery.”

Unlike some commercial or municipal curb side composting programs, the worms at The Venue for New Hope are on a strict vegan diet. No dairy and meat can be added to the composting beds, because such food sources attract maggots. Irwin explained the worms don’t eat egg shells either, which get tossed into the mix for calcium and soil enrichment.

Pointing to the compost area Irwin explained the compost beds, which appear to be filled to the brim with deep rich-looking soil, don’t contain any soil at all.

“Everything that’s in here is castings. This is not garden dirt. This is just worm poop. That’s all brand new soil; new earth.”

In addition to self-sufficiency, the operation also actively diverts food waste from landfills and creates nutrient rich “soil” for the greenhouse operation.

“If you’re not careful, you grow things you didn’t ask for,” and said vegetable scraps containing seeds often germinate and grow into new plants.

In addition to the cafe and greenhouse, the main building is being used for weddings and for events including for parties, weddings, or corporate events. The main building is a renovated barn which houses the cafe/coffee shop, and is staged with vintage furniture and wares creating a space filled with rustic charm, and an aesthetic space/backdrop for various events and bookings.

The goal is to create a space focused on sustainability, “we wanted to create something that was self-sufficient, and be able to grow our own product for our own venue.”

While there are still a few packaging items without sustainable replacements, Irwin said the team will continue to adopt compostable alternatives on site wherever possible, and are striving to be as eco-friendly as possible. Coffee cups and sleeves are already in use, and adding value to the vermi-composting value chain, and are constantly being returned back into the Venue of New Hope’s own ecosystem as food for the composting operation.

“Even the paper towel in the bathroom gets shredded up and it goes into the worm bins and the worms and then that gives me the dirt, which replenishes the soil for everything we’re growing and then we’re just going to continue growing and continue growing as our beds get bigger and bigger.”

The Venue is available for rent until the weekend of Oct. 14, but will reopen for event bookings in the spring, as weather permits. The last hurrah of the season will take place on October 7 for a “Celtic Thanksgiving,” which will feature live music and performances by Celtic Routes – Wander West, and Kavanagh Hepher at the venue site at 100043 Range Rd 22 #3, Diamond City.

Check out The Venue of New Hope on Facebook for updates and cafe hours, or visit newhopeyql.wordpress.com for updates and information.

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