Call it worm castings, call it vermicompost, or just call it worm poop.
Whatever you call it, the stuff worms leave behind is great for the soil. The organizers of a local nonprofit are moving forward with plans for a worm farm that will raise funds for veteran programs, and they’re asking community members to pitch in through a crowdfunding campaign.
Source One Serenity was started by Rusty and Elena Lininger in 2016. Rusty Lininger had found fly fishing healing to the psychological injuries he sustained during his service in the Iraq War and wanted to pass that on to other veterans. Elena, his wife, was all in. So the two created the nonprofit to teach other veterans how to fly fish and reap the benefits.
Today, Source One Serenity has branched out from fishing courses to fly tying, outdoor activities and retreats. Like all nonprofit organizations, though, Source One Serenity needs a consistent funding source to maintain its programs.
Enter the worms.
The Liningers plan to start a worm farm to process food waste from local grocery stores and restaurants into soil amendment that will be sold to gardeners and farmers. Vermicompost offers an organic version of many of the benefits of chemical fertilizers. It also helps the soil retain oxygen and drain water properly, making for healthier, happier plants.
They’ve received a series of grants from the Cow Creek Umpqua Foundation, Oregon Community Foundation and the Portland-based Reser Family Foundation, to get the project, called HealTerra, going and they hope to move forward soon on plans to build their first full-sized 8-by-100-foot digester. They are working with Douglas County Public Works in hopes of collecting food waste for compost at the county’s Glide transfer station.
The project will ultimately be able to hire a few veterans and raise funds to provide programs for many veterans.
Rusty Lininger said much of the world’s soil has been depleted of its nutrients by large-scale corporate farming practices so vermicomposting is great for the environment. And like fishing, he said, land stewardship is appealing for many veterans.
“You’re connected to something a lot deeper than say a superficial world,” he said. “The land doesn’t judge. It doesn’t care. It just gives. It asks for nothing in return. It’s an act of selflessness in a way, to give back to what makes all of us.”
“It’s also rewarding,” Elena Lininger said. “Rusty always says Charlie Mike, it’s like CM, which stands for Continue Mission.”
Rusty Lininger jokes that because worms are considered livestock in Oregon he can say to other livestock producers that he’s “got a few million head.”
Of course, in worm farming, it’s tough to tell the head from the tail. But one thing’s for sure — worms grow fast. They double their population in four to six weeks. And that provides the opportunity for the worm project to keep growing.
“They just multiply, so it’s only the beginning really. I see truckloads of food waste coming in and an entire industry built around just recycling here,” Rusty Lininger said.
They’ve tried a couple of small scale versions of the digester, and learned through that some tricks of the trade. For example, the worms are much better at digesting food waste that’s been blended first, into the consistency of a cow patty, Elena Lininger said.
The Liningers are thrilled about the prospect of taking their project full-scale.
“We are really excited to start it. We just cannot wait,” Elena Lininger said.
For more information, check out the project website at healterra.org.
Wolf Creek Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center Director Gabe Wishart said Thursday his staff remains mission-focused, despite uncertainty about the program’s future.
The staff learned May 24 that Wolf Creek is among 16 Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers across the country that will soon be shifted from operating under the U.S. Forest Service to operating under private contractors for the Department of Labor — a move that could be damaging to its most popular training program, in forestry conservation and firefighting. Another nine CCCs will be eliminated altogether, including one of the three in Oregon.
U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Springfield, and U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, are leading a bipartisan group of federal legislators opposing the change. They penned a letter Wednesday to the directors of the Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the Department of Forestry. In addition, Merkley and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, introduced legislation Thursday aimed at blocking the shift.
Wolf Creek offers a variety of educational and vocational programs, and partners with Umpqua Community College and the Umpqua National Forest. Students entering the program are often those for whom traditional schooling wasn’t a good fit.
Wishart said Wolf Creek’s most popular program with students is the forestry conservation and firefighting trade, which has between 24 and 30 students at all times, around the year. Those students make significant contributions to the annual wildland firefighting effort. Some of those students go out on fire camp assignments to prepare food or manage supplies, while about 20 are currently shopped out to serve as firefighters for the season.
“It has just been a tremendous opportunity for our students to belong to something, to feel like they’re contributing and giving back,” Wishart said.
It’s work that benefits both the community and the students, he said.
“You can see the pride when the students know they’re out there putting back into their community, contributing in a very tangible immediate way to something as dynamic as fire suppression,” he said.
Altogether, Wolf Creek students contributed 20,000 hours of service on natural resource projects in the Umpqua National Forest last year. The organization’s close partnership with the Umpqua National Forest will likely be jeopardized by the shift away from Forest Service management, Wishart said.
Wishart said Wolf Creek staff is largely made up of instructors who grew up in Douglas County. They’re not yet certain how the program will be impacted, including whether any jobs could be lost. Despite that uncertainty about the future of their jobs, Wishart said Wolf Creek’s staff members remain mission focused and have maintained their dedication to the students.
“We get an opportunity to change lives here, and part of that is imparting a commitment to community, a commitment to the principles of natural resource conservation and that kind of work and it’s incredibly meaningful work. We’re not overly certain what the future holds but we’re still committed to the work we’re doing now,” Wishart said.
Rose School will hold its first ever graduation ceremony at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Labor Temple at 742 SE Roberts Ave.
Graduates have been finishing up their requirements until the last few days.
When asked about the number of graduates in early May, Rose School Principal Randal Olsen said “maybe a handful,” in mid-May there were eight, two weeks ago 12, and Wednesday there were 15 total graduates, 12 of whom will walk in the ceremony.
“Their path is not too linear,” Olsen said. “We’re helping kids find a path when they don’t fit in the big wheel.”
The school offers online learning, hybrid learning and a GED program. Staff and students work together to find out what will work best for each individual.
“The students that come here sometimes have a medical illness or extreme anxiety and they’re really not fit to do nine hours a day at a school,” Online Learning Coordinator Jessica Monday said. “They often come in behind, missing school and we have to build their credits up fast to fix it.”
Monday, who will welcome the students at the ceremony, said the theme of graduation is reflections. “This is their first adult milestone,” she said. “We want them to feel accomplished.”
Because Rose School is not accredited at this time, graduates attending the school have completed their requirement through Connections Learning. Students who completed GED requirements will also be included in the ceremony.
Rose School was started two years ago and underwent an accreditation process in early May and is currently awaiting those results.
“All of our students started somewhere else, we’re just finishing the work that everybody’s been a part of,” Olsen said. “This is a culmination of a lot of hard work. This feels like a celebration for everyone.”
Last year, there were several students who obtained their diploma but there was no graduation ceremony.
“We asked the kids last year if they wanted it and they didn’t,” Olsen said. “This year we said, ‘the heck with what they want.’”
Monday said students have been excited about the graduation ceremony, turning in baby photos and questionnaires before deadline.
“They’ve all been excited about this,” Monday said. “We want to show off Rose.”
Monday and Olsen will both be on stage during the graduation ceremony, which takes place during school hours and will have all students in attendance as well.
When a scheduling conflict was brought to light, less than two weeks before the ceremony, the administrators decided to change the time from noon to 10 a.m. to make sure the rest of the students could be in attendance.
Monday said it was important to include the rest of the student body, so they can have peer role models.
The Rev. Howard Johnson will speak to the graduating class, after they’ve each had a chance to thank the people who helped get them to graduation.
The Labor Temple was more than happy to accommodate the graduation ceremony and Monday and Olsen were excited about incorporating Roseburg history into their ceremony.
Graduates will get to wear robes borrowed from Roseburg High School. Fred Meyer, Roseburg Cinema and Walmart have also donated to the graduation.