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2017 Speakers (Last Year)

Steve Churchill owns the Urban Worm Company, a Philadelphia-based blog and online store aimed at teaching vermicomposting and vermiculture basics to beginners. He is also a Managing Director at the Worm Farming Alliance, a group of current and aspiring worm-related business owners and entrepreneurs. WFA members share knowledge about beginner-to-large scale vermicomposting and vermiculture operations, marketing, and web development. An airline pilot and an actively-serving Air Force reservist, Steve is also the director of an elementary education non-profit called STEM Playground, where he manages a $180,000 budget and has grown STEM Playground from a 15-school pilot program to over 3,300 participating schools in the last 2 years.

Gilad Freund is the Director of the Agricultural Research and Development Central Mountain Region of Israel. Gilaud attended the 2015 Vermiculture Conference and when he returned to Israel, he built a mid-scale flow-through vermicomposting operation. They are running at capacity and producing 300 liters of finished vermicompost every week. Their feedstock is pre-composted spent mushroom waste from a nearby farm. They are conducting research on the suppression of soil diseases through the use of organic soil amendments. http://mophahar.org.il/

Ali S. Calikoglu, MD is a professor in pediatrics in the Division of Pediatric Endocrinology, at the Department of Pediatrics, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH). In 1982, he received his doctorate in medicine from Ankara University in Turkey. He completed his residency in pediatrics at Hacettepe University, Ankara, Turkey. He pursued a fellowship in pediatric endocrinology in the Department of Pediatrics at UNC-CH in 1994. He has been a faculty at the same institute since 1997. Dr. Calikoglu has involved in all aspects of academic medicine including basic and clinical research, patient care and teaching. He has published over 90 peer-reviewed articles, books and book chapter. He has developed an interest in biological waste reduction, more specifically vermicomposting, black soldier fly farming and aquaponics. Recently, he and his five physician partners founded a company, Germina, Inc to realize their dream of developing a model in order for small farmers in Turkey to establish self-sufficient, environment-friendly and sustainable farming practices.

David Davidson is the founder and manager of Davos Worm Farms, one of the five largest worm farms in Australia. They are currently diverting approximately 200 tons per month of food waste away from the landfill and generating significant gate fee income in the process. Davo was the president of The Australian Wormgrowers Association for 6 years. They are pursuing the options of converting waste timber into biochar to compliment the use of worm castings in agriculture. They also have successfully developed what may be a world first: regularly inoculating their pastures with compost worms in a way that results in the conversion of cow manure to casting, in situ (i.e., in the paddock). This results in a farmer’s ability to have a once off application, permanent, self-perpetuating fertilizing program operating which they anticipate will result in pasture brix readings being tripled. http://www.davoswormfarms.com.au

Francisco Niembro co-founded Aldea Verde in Queretaro, Mexico in 2005. He became CEO in 2008 and by reorganizing the vermicompost production process he helped increase 50% productivity and 70% earthworm production of Aldea Verde’s two producers. He has worked on the design, training and installation of 36 vermicomposting projects and 37 industrial composting facilities. He is collaborating with Mexico’s national environmental agency, to create national composting and vermicomposting standards. Aldea Verde has just accomplished their 62nd workshop on “Introduction to Vermiculture” where they’ve share the basic needs to start a vermicomposting project with over 1,300 attendees from many different Mexican states. Aldea Verde believes that engaging people is the most powerful tool to restore land and protect earth. http://aldeaverde.org.mx/

Anna de la Vega is the founder and director of The Urban Worm CIC, a UK-based social enterprise promoting vermiculture as a practice for positive civic action against food insecurity and climate change. As a vehicle for this The Urban Worm CIC developed and manufactured components to convert domestic wheelie bins into worm farms, challenging perceptions of waste and providing an alternative solution to landfill, especially within the urban environment. Anna is a community workshop leader and guest lecturer within the agricultural school at Nottingham Trent University. After receiving the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust  (WCMT) Fellowship in 2016, Anna traveled to the USA and Cuba researching the role of vermiculture for sustainable waste management and food security. The Urban Worm CIC was founded in 2013, shortly after Anna received her Masters degree in Human Security & Environmental Change, specializing in Food Security & Urban Agriculture. Anna is a winning finalist for Women in Social and Environmental Enterprise (WISEE) and has received numerous grants and awards for her work. http://www.theurbanworm.co.uk/

Luis J De Los Santos, President of FOHL Vermicompost LLC, has been introducing the people of Puerto Rico to multiple uses and benefits of worm castings. Recently Luis participated in HIT 3001, a nationwide entrepreneurial competition, which garnered great exposure through the local TV station and news cast. Luis has also participated in special reports or given speeches in newspapers, radio stations, variety television shows and business programs, major farm fairs on the island, state prison, schools, colleges, San Juan Botanical Garden and different farmers associations. Luis was a speaker on the first Caribbean Recycling Summit organized by the US-EPA. Luis  made most of the production equipment used by FOHL Vermicompost himself in order to reduce costs and improve production time. Luis holds an A.S. in Biomedical Engineering, is a US Navy Veteran and active member of the US Composting Council and Made in Puerto Rico Association. FOHL Vermicompost’s slogan is “Working for an Organic Future.”

Maria Rodriguez founded ByoEarth in 2007 to promote vermiculture in vulnerable populations in Guatemala as a sustainable way of life. Their mission is to improve the living conditions of the Guatemalan population. To achieve this, they integrate women into production chains, produce and market organic goods and promote the process of vermiculture as a mechanism for processing waste into benefits for humanity and the planet.

Clara Tang is a masters student in the Crop and Soil Sciences Department at  NC State University. Her research focuses on understanding how vermicompost applications changes chemical, physical, and biological properties of the soil and how that relates to crop yield. Central to her research is to understand how microbial communities respond to vermicompost either by changing their composition or functioning. She is also the recipient of 2016 Composting Council Research and Education Foundation Young Investigator Scholarship.

Jeffrey Neal attended the Vermiculture Conferences in 2015 and 2016 for guidance and inspiration in building an on-site food waste vermicomposting system for a condo building in the dense urban heart of Washington, DC. The two year pilot-project phase resulted in successful vermicomposting in a basement stairwell, zero complaints, and the condo board’s approval to expand the program for the entire 165-unit building. In 2015 Jeffrey started Loop Closing to deploy on-site food recycling solutions in urban areas including underrepresented communities and delivering the finished product to farms in underused transportation resources. https://ilsr.org/about-the-institute-for-local-self-reliance/staff-and-board/jeffrey-neal/

Rachel Tinker-Kulberg, PhD, is owner of AquaponicFood4Thought, an education-based business focused on teaching people about the connections between environmental quality and human equality through evidenced-based health and wellness workshops. She is also the owner of Floppy Hat Farms that grows specialty niche crops using sustainable soil- and Aquaponic-based technologies. She teaches Aquaponic and  business training workshops through Durham Tech Community College and also serves as a scientific consultant for a variety of local biotech companies. https://www.linkedin.com/in/aquaponicsfood4thought/

Kathy Corwin Doesken is the founder, chief composter and worm keeper at Rocky Mountain Soil Stewardship. Her educational background as a soil scientist and lifelong partnerships with horses lead to composting, which lead to worms. Kathy is dedicated to re-purposing organic material which might end up in a landfill and turning it into vermicompost which supports soil health, plant health, and sustainable practices in general. Kathy life experiences include public speaking about composting, conducting research with composting, making lots of compost, founding Rocky Mountain Soil Stewardship, LLC, discovering the usefulness and uniqueness of composting worms, and working with horses. Her current method of vermicomposting includes making compost from horse manure and leaves which is fed to worms which live in beds inside a hoop house. The vermicompost is sold locally to gardeners and farmers. Rocky Mountain Soil Stewardship provides consulting services to urban homeowners, farmers, equine operations, schools, and larger institutions to create low-tech, sustainable vermicomposting systems. Kathy lives near Fort Collins, CO on a small farm with her husband Nolan, dogs, cats, chickens, several horses, and lots of composting worms. Website:  www.rmsoilstewardship.com

Ron Alexander is considered by many to be the nation’s most experienced compost marketing consultant. With 28 years experience in composting and organics recycling, Ron has completed more than 400 related consulting projects and worked with over 200 composting and organics recycling facilities throughout North America and the world. An accomplished writer and speaker, he has written and presented almost 300 papers and presentations. Trained in sales, marketing and sales management, Ron has marketed organic recycled products in all regions of the United States, including 32 states, as well as 6 Canadian Provinces, Europe and Australasia. He has extensive practical marketing experience with millions of cubic yards of compost, and recycled soil amendments, including digester by-products, dried/granulated and lime/chemically stabilized biosolids products, manure and manure-based products, paper and wood-based products, vermi-composts/worm castings. http://www.alexassoc.net/

Mark Purser  co-operates The Worm Farm in Durham, California, with his wife Arlita and son John Stewart. Since 1994, they have raised earthworms in 1.5 miles of outdoor windrows for harvesting and shipping throughout the continental U.S and Canada. They also provide compost and other soil amendments for local farmers. Originally, they raised worms only for the castings, which were then mixed with compost they made on the farm. In 2001, after purchasing the client base of another worm farm in Penn Valley, California, they began shipping worms throughout the continental United States. Several years later they became verified shippers with Delta, United and Air Canada, and shipped worms to Canada as well. They now ship about 250-300 pounds of worms weekly, throughout the U.S. and Canada. They also supply over 4,000 tons per year of compost/casting mixes, as well as custom mixes to various farmers and other agricultural users. They carry a large supply of materials, in addition to the compost and worm castings, which includes coconut coir, peat moss, bat guano, perlite, lava rock, cow and chicken manures, rice hulls, and other organic soil amendments. http://www.thewormfarm.net/

Rhonda Sherman, in the Department of Horticultural Science, has been at North Carolina State University (Raleigh, NC, USA) for almost 25 years. She provides education and technical assistance about solid waste management throughout the United States and has assisted people in 109 countries. Rhonda has conducted numerous  training courses and workshops, and created a variety of publications on solid waste management and sustainability issues, for extension educators, farmers, recycling coordinators, teachers, students, commercial and institutional managers, earthworm growers, consultants, and the general public throughout North Carolina and nationally. Her key topics include vermicomposting, composting, source reduction, reuse, and recycling. Since 2001, she has offered annually the nation’s only conference on large-scale vermicomposting, helping more than 1,000 people to start-up or expand earthworm farms. Much of her work has addressed commercial and industrial waste reduction, with specific emphasis on the vermiculture, composting, construction and lodging industries. As a result of training workshops and demonstrations, hundreds of small-scale vermicomposting systems have been set up in classrooms and homes. https://composting.ces.ncsu.edu/

Written By

Photo of Brandon Hopper, N.C. Cooperative ExtensionBrandon HopperBusiness and Technology Application Technician (919) 515-3705 brandon_hopper@ncsu.eduHorticultural Science - NC State University
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