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Sun Apr 1, 2012, 12:35 PM

a biography of the day--mary arlene appelhof "the worm woman"

Mary Arlene Appelhof ( 1936 --2005 )
Biologist, Worm Farmer, Educator, Publisher, and Environmentalist
Mary Appelhof advocated using the lowly earthworm to recycle food waste into usable fertilizer. In the early 1970s she turned her basement worm container into a career designing composting bins, marketing worms, and authoring Worms Eat My Garbage. As “Worm Woman,” she introduced thousands of schoolchildren and home gardeners to the fascinating, environmentally-significant activity of vermicomposting. http://www.wormwoman.com/acatalog/index.html

Mary Arlene Appelhof - "Worm Woman"
Mary Appelhof was known as "worm woman" for her dedication to using worms to turn food waste into fertilizer.

At about the time Mary Appelhof came to New York City for "The Dirt Museum--the Ladies Room" exhibit in October 2001, she had spent 30 years being inspired by, entertained by, educated by and excited by worms. During all that time she lived with them inside her home, quietly turning her food waste into dark brown worm castings full of nutrients for house plants and gardens.

Her vision at the time of the Stockholm Conference for the Human Environment (1972) was "tons of worms could be eating tons of garbage." But this biologist and former high school teacher didn't have the wherewithal to make that happen. So Mary did what she could. She started in 1973with a simple brochure, "Basement Worm Bins Produce Potting Soil and Reduce Garbage," produced on an ancient mimeograph machine she bought from the Democratic party for $5.

Mary talked to garden clubs, exhibited at harvest festivals, barter fairs and energy expos. She was a lone voice for protecting the environment when she served on solid waste planning committees. This was before they even knew what composting was, to say nothing of vermicomposting. She gave workshops and lectures. She organized conferences. She helped knock-down a $2 million dollar attempt to site a garbage-burning incinerator in southwest Michigan.

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