Some people look at a mass of wriggling earthworms and think ‘yuck’. Linda Profitt looks at these same earthworms and sees something beautiful. Linda is the Executive Director of the Global Peace Initiative. That organization works for peace in a variety of ways. Through numerous “Peace Gardens” throughout the area, they provide produce for neighborhood food pantries. There are numerous volunteer opportunities where people learn about principles of sustainability. Peace Hikes offer a different approach to experiencing neighborhoods. Over the years, several thousand youth have had their awareness raised about food, farming and the need for sustainable practices.
A few years ago, Linda started Peaceful Grounds to promote their belief that urban dwellers can and should produce food that is both good tasting and nutritionally superior to what one could buy at a typical grocery store.
Peaceful Grounds has a demonstration farm located at its home in the Marion County Fairgrounds, 7300 Troy Avenue. Here people can come and see a model of sustainable agriculture. Walking around the grounds, one sees a wide variety of crops growing and producing abundantly. But rather than the typical long rows on a tilled farm field, here the crops grow out of mounds of composted material. There is no tilling done on this farm and no chemical fertilizers are used.
The superstars of this type of farming are the earthworms. Around the farm are long rows of wood chips that appear at first sight to be little more than refuse piles. But Linda explains that she mixes beer mash, a by-product of breweries, into these piles. Taking a spading fork, she digs into the middle of the pile. Huge quantities of worms appear. They are actively working turning these “piles of refuse” into black gold. The worms chew up the material and leave behind ‘castings’ which are essentially worm poop. Eventually, the pile is sifted in a large cylinder. The worm castings are extracted and are an ideal fertilizer. A small amount added to plants eliminates the need for any chemical fertilizer. The somewhat larger remains make a superb growing medium. The largest pieces are returned to the composting pile.
Education and awareness are as important as the food produced. To that end, a weekly Farm Camp is held for four weeks in the summer. Kids come and do farm work and in the process develop an appreciation for growing good, healthy food. Many volunteers are similarly educated as they work the farm.
On June 29, Peaceful Grounds opened its newest endeavor, a Farm and Arts Market. Local vendors offer a variety of craft and food items every Sunday from noon to 4PM. The farm also sells its own produce along with the worm castings. The market will be year round and is located in the former cattle barn at the fairgrounds.
If you are not thrilled by a mass of wriggling earthworms, Linda Profitt invites you to spend a Saturday morning working on the farm. She’s quite certain you’ll go away a genuine worm lover.
Article submitted by Richard Clough. Photos by Susan Peters.