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Build Your Vermicompost Bin & Assist Pacific Garden Mission-Last time in January

Note: Pacific Garden Mission's worm bins are overflowing. This will be the last class in January and will then hold it every other month going forward.

Nearly one third of our food ends up in the trash can. There is hope, however, in the form of worms, which naturally convert organic waste into fertilizer. Learn about vermicomposting – nature’s ultimate recycling system, build your own worm bin, have fun, and assist a local social initiative all at the same time!

Class location: 1458 S Canal St, Chicago, IL 60607
Cost: $40.00 - ($20.00 will be directly donated to Pacific Garden Mission and covers the cost of the worms)
Materials List:
Worm Bin: Please bring a Rubbermaid 10 to 14 gallon Roughneck. May be purchased at Home Depot for under $20.00. All other materials and tools will be provided.

Limit 10 students.

Also-- please note parking may be a challenge. Take a bus or carpool!

In this three-hour class, you will learn about vermicomposting, build your own worm bin, and we will hand harvest worms in the Pacific Garden Mission’s greenhouse. Each participant will take home their bin and 1 pound of worms. (Please note that the worm harvesting will take approximately 1.5 - 2 hours standing and tables so participants will need to be able to stand for most of that time. If you have a physical difficulty, please let the instructor know). There will also be a demonstration on using the worm castings to make an aerated compost tea in a very low-tech system.

Pacific Garden Mission ( is a homeless shelter in the South Loop section of Chicago, Illinois, founded in 1877, by Colonel George Clarke and his wife, Sarah. It has been nicknamed, "The Old Lighthouse." It is the oldest such shelter in Chicago and is the oldest, continuously operating rescue mission in the country.

On an average night, over 500 homeless men, women, and children receive safe, clean and warm shelter at Pacific Garden Mission. During the cold winter months, that number climbs well above 800. In addition to a clean, comfortable bed, Pacific Garden Mission also provides food and clothing, as well as medical and dental care, if needed. Pastors and counselors provide needed spiritual help. Everything is provided free of charge to all who enter "the doors that never close."

PGM has implemented a greenhouse run by Robert McKinney, a Windy City Harvest graduate, where small fruits and vegetables are grown to supplement their facility’s kitchens. Within the greenhouse is an area dedicated to vermicomposting and outside PGM has a small fruit orchard and outdoor garden beds.

Why vermicompost?
• After digesting the edible components, worms produce nutrient-rich remains in the form of worm castings, or vermicompost, an extremely rich form of compost.
• Worm compost (castings) can be added to indoor plants as well as outdoor plants as a rich form of plant food or can be used as the basis or aerated compost teas to be used in indoor and outdoor plants.
• Vermicomposting reduces the amount of garbage produced and sent to the landfill, because food scraps, dry leaves, and newspaper are used in their bedding.
• Redworms (Eisenia foetida), the type of worm used in worm bins, reproduce rapidly and can be shared with others for starting their own worm bins.
• Worm bins, when maintained properly, produce little or no odor.
• Worm bins are small, compact and perfect for apartment dwellers.
• It is easy to maintain a worm bin than a compost pile, which needs to be turned weekly.
• Worm bins are an easy way to introduce children to composting and caring for the earth.
• Worm bins can be kept indoors during the winter and relocated outdoors during frost-free months, thus extending the composting season to year-round.
• Worms are great pets – they are quiet and you don’t have to walk them!
Instructor: AnnaMaria Leon is a permaculture designer & teacher and edible landscaper based in North Lawndale. She received training as a Master Gardener and Master Composter through UIC - Extension. In October 2013, AnnaMaria completed her Certificate in Sustainable Urban Agriculture and a Certificate in Environmental Literacy – Roots of Success – UC Berkeley at the Arturo Velasquez Institute and Chicago Botanic Garden’s Windy City Harvest Program

Her past projects include the redesign of the gardens at Inspiration Kitchens, the public landscaping along East Garfield Park's business corridor at Lake and Kedzie, and the landscaping of the Martin Luther King Peace Path in North Lawndale. Current projects include a collaboration with Chicago Urban Art Center (CUARC) as lead landscaper in the Peace Parks Projects of North Lawndale and collaboration with the North Lawndale Greening Committee (NLGC) to convert the Betty Swan Arboretum into a food forest.

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  • A former member
    A former member

    My Experience was AWESOME

    January 29, 2014

  • AnnaMaria L.

    I did want to answer your question about putting worms in tupperware. The gases will not harm the apartment.

    January 20, 2014

  • AnnaMaria L.

    Strategies include: taking out books at the library, volunteering at places where you want to acquire certain horticulture skills (Garfield Park Conservatory is one such place that you can contact, Iron Street Farms is another, numerous community gardens in your area), asking people that you know who have worm bins to teach you one on one and perhaps they will divide their worms with you, organize workshops and invite a guest speaker to teach it, if a person is willing to participate in barter that may be a possibility, also. Master Composters with UIC-Extension are required to voluntarily teach composting classes as part of keeping their Certification. Vermicomposting is part of composting. So, someone can organize an event and contact Sarah Batka, UIC Extension Program Coordinator at [masked] and request a Master Gardener or Master Composter give a free lecture. Hope this helps.

    January 20, 2014

  • AnnaMaria L.

    I do have some thoughts about taking the workshop for free. Given your strong feelings against PGM, I don't think it would be a good venue for you to participate in this particular class. Please also note that I also have fees that I must take into account as part of my business. Given those two things, I cannot offer this particular workshop free, however, I will find out some other places that are teaching them free of charge and will post them on the PcMeetup. I have seen others on the PcMeetup who are also short on funds and I would encourage people to seek ways to actively acquire as much knowledge as possible without paying, if at this time a person is unable to participate in a cash economy.

    January 20, 2014

  • AnnaMaria L.

    Hi, Raven: I cannot comment on what you have stated here regarding the living conditions at PGM. My interactions with them have been based on the activities at the greenhouse so I have no first hand knowledge of what you state. It is great that you feel strongly enough to take action on impacting the areas you mentioned. I feel my role is as educator and also to empower people to take simple actions in their lives. I would be more than happy to do workshops at other homeless shelters. Perhaps you can let me know of other places to hold them?

    January 20, 2014

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