The bugs keep churning out at Leafhopper Farm! Our mealworm production continues to grow, and could become a viable cash crop for the farm with a little more investment in space and time. For the past 5 years, the whole operation has been running in the house, under a counter just outside the kitchen. The worms have loved being inside and close to the wood stove in winter. They are easy to maintain, low input for high output, and a niche product.
Right now we are giving a monthly feeding of these bugs to the hens, which is a perfect nutritional boost, but we’d like to grow to weekly, and eventually grasp how much mealworm production it would take to sustain a flock of 50 birds. We feed the worms organic quinoa and oats, with organic apple or potato as moisture. The great thing about these bugs is they don’t need water! It’s one of the best protein sources you can grow, better nutritional value than beef- at a micro fraction the cost, energy input, space, and pollution. Why is this not a thing everywhere?
I’ve even been selective to improve the breed- just like other livestock! You can see in the picture above, the larger worm is being selected for intensionally, giving us bigger bigs for better value. Insects make genetic selection faster, and the results are exciting to track. I’ll continue sorting the larger animals into breeding boxes to encourage the genetic advantage of size. It’s all so exciting to see in action, this is great!
If these hens could speak, they would vote “yes” for mealworms. Yesterday they got a feast of insects, and are out there again this morning continuing to scratch at the grain fragments in search of a still hiding bug to enjoy. They left half their grain in the hopper too, which says to me that they prefer live insects to the grains. We could be feeding the grain to the bugs instead, still giving the chickens their nutrients while delivering it in a capsule of added protein and flavor.
If you are interested in raising your own mealworms, for animals or yourself, yes, you can eat them too! Then do a search for local mealworm producers in your area- you’d be surprised! Make sure the bugs are being fed an organic diet for health and safety, and ask where the breeder got their worms too.
One great example of this system really taking off locally is Beta Farms. I’ve emailed them for more information on their growing systems (if they will share) and asked for a tour of their facilities to help me implement a small scale growing system for future slow food support in holistic production of mealworms for our community. These systems could be the answer to food security worries around the world. Mealworms take very little to grow, and the frass (bug droppings) are a GREAT organic fertilizer for the garden.
Mealworm farming is the future, and Leafhopper Farm hopes to be a pioneer in this new wave of smarter agriculture for a greener future.