It was while I was poking around for another article on Put A Plant On It, that I learned about vermiculturist Myles Stubblefield, owner of Buffalo Worm Works. Up until that point, I was aware that there was a small vermiculture scene in Buffalo, but I had no idea that there was a guy out there who was up to his eyeballs in it.
When I finally wrangled Stubblefield for a conversation, I immediately asked him how the heck he came to be a “worm farmer.” He explained that being a dog trainer and owner of the Dog Learning Center (DLC) in Tonawanda led him down that mighty peculiar road. “I’ve always been concerned about the environment,” he told me. “With my dog training, I began to wonder if there was a better way of disposing dog poop, instead of throwing it (and the bags) into a landfill. I began to look at different solutions – septic systems, accelerators, etc., but everything I looked at was very difficult, or not quick enough. Then I Googled, ‘What eats dog poop?’ Worms!”
Today, Stubblefield believes that he is now the largest worm farmer in WNY. “I started off with 500 worms,” he told told me. “That grew to 180,000 pretty quickly. I learned that worms reproduce rapidly. Now, my goal is to have 1 million worms by 2023.”
I found it interesting that Stubblefield has yet to sell a single worm. That’s not his business model yet. “I’ve got a large worm herd, but instead of selling the worms, I’m selling the poop waste at $12 a bag.”
According to Stubblefield, the business is off to a great start. There’s also a side benefit. “50% of the money raised from the sales of the worm castings goes towards taking care of the homeless dogs that we work with at DLC. We also work with local shelters. Buffalo Worm Works is actually run out of DLC – that’s where we have the worm farm, where we ship the castings, and where people come to learn about the business.”
Stubblefield told me that his worm business is doing great, and that he’s got a lot of big plans. Next up, he’s planning on selling worms – red wigglers and European nightcrawlers in particular. “There’s a shortage of worms right now due to the pandemic,” Stubblefield explained, as I’m starting to imagine a scene from Forest Gump and the auspicious crawfish business. “A number of facilities closed, and there’s a backlog. The giant commercial worm farms are out West, and they don’t like shipping across the country. They sell a lot of worms that are used for bait, and when the fishing industry got hit hard, so did they. It was difficult getting my first shipment of 10,000 worms. But as the business has grown, I believe that selling the worms will be another good revenue stream – I plan on selling to local bait shops, as well as to people who want their worms for their gardens.”
Talking to Stubblefield, I found that he was beyond passionate when it comes to animals and the environment. To told me that when he was a little kid, he would always have numerous jarred bug habitats out on the family porch. His fondness of animals led to the dog training, and his love for the planet led him to being concerned about the dog excrement problem. And that, of course, led him to the worms… and so much more. “I’m building an indoor pumpkin patch right now, about 30’x8′ in size. That’s one of the ways that I’m going to feed my Vietnamese potbelly pig that I rescued a couple of years back – when I found her no one had touched him for two years. So I rolled him up in a blanket [laughing], and took him with me. Now he eats along with the worms. The money I’m going to make selling the squash and gourds (whatever the pig doesn’t eat) will go to Hamburg Mutts for Freedom.”
As far as marketing his multifaceted venture, Stubblefield said that it’s mostly word of mouth. He has open houses, meet and greets with the homeless dogs, and pop-ups around town. “Im busy,” he said. “I’m an Army veteran. People get excited to see a successful veteran entrepreneur, especially during a pandemic. I’m a ‘dog trainer worm guy’ who finds all of this therapeutic and cathartic. I’m just trying to get Buffalo moving in the right direction.”
Stubblefield told me that no one can outwork him. He’s that driven. But he does has some help from three worm wranglers – students at UB who are studying the sustainability and the worm’s potential impact on the global economy.
Stubblefield’s got a lot going on, to say the least. That said, I’ve barely lifted the lid on his life or his business. I know that we will be seeing a lot more of this fascinating Buffalo character in years to come. As Stubblefield is fond of saying, “You’ve got to see it to believe it.”
I have no doubt.
Worms, castings, wellness boarding, puppy play, dog training, shelter & rescue dog rehabilitation, group classes, dog day school, daycare play groups, dog walk coaching, private play parks
Visit the facility during the workweek, or come to an open house – Fridays (5pm-7pm) and Sundays (3pm-6pm)
319 Ensminger Rd, Tonawanda, 716-908-3615