Corrections or additions?

This column was prepared for the November 17, 2004 issue of U.S. 1

Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Between the Lines

Last week’s cover story wins the "It’s a Small World" prize for this

year. Our November 10 cover, "Pay Dirt," featured Tom Szaky’s company,

Terracycle, which transforms redworm excrement into organic fertilizer

and packages it in recycled bottles.

Five days later we received an E-mail from Naomi Dagen Bloom, who had

been mentioned in a November 2 New York Times article about urban worm

composting. A psychotherapist, Bloom graduated from Oberlin in 1955,

and she and her husband, Ron, had been on the faculty at Morgan State

University. But when they retired to Manhattan and no longer had a

back yard to recycle food waste, she began freezing her garbage and

driving it back to Baltimore. Then she heard about a vermicompost lot

in New York City.

"So I took my frozen garbage on the subway," she writes in free verse

on her web page ( "Long ride, knees got cold. Four

years ago the big leap — one pound of my own red wiggler worms (male

and female in same worm, very New York). Put them in a beautiful

handmade wooden box with torn-up New York Times. Watched them,

Mothered them, Very therapeutic . . . wonderfully obsessive."

How did Bloom hear about Tom Szaky? That’s the hard-to-believe part.

It seems she regularly travels to Princeton for dental appointments

with Neil Melker, her husband’s nephew, and she found the November 10

issue in Melker’s waiting room at Princeton Professional Park. She


"Visiting the dentist in Princeton, I was stopped in my tracks by

the ‘Pay Dirt’ cover story, swiped it, read it in the car as spouse

drove us back to Manhattan.

"Awesome. Now can we get him to tackle the larger issue of

recycling garbage in your town and mine? I’ve sent the link to the

article to Mary Appelhoff at in Kalamazoo,

Michigan, so it’s probably making its way across the country and

around the world by now. Thanks for the inspirational moments."

In 2001 Bloom had put together a composting installation at Queens

Botanical Garden called "This Dirt Museum: the Ladies’ Room." She

writes on her website, "Who knew that bringing tiny, red wiggler worms

into my apartment would become an art form? Compost took over my life.

I gave it to street trees in New York City, invented the world’s

smallest kitchen composter, Worm-Warec, an adorable little portable

recycler. And I went on to make beads, buttons, masks from compost.

Creativity in the 3rd Age is what all my work is about."

Though Bloom considers herself the "Sweetheart of Kitchen Composting,"

she refers to her colleague in Michigan, Mary Appelhoff, as "Worm

Queen." Appelhoff has been a worm composting pioneer for 30 years, and

she publishes and distributes composting products and books.

We called Terracycle to ask if Szaky had referred to Appelhoff’s

research when he launched his company. Yes, Szaky owns a copy of

Appelhoff’s seminal book, "Worms Eat My Garbage." Published in 1982,

the book has sold 175,000 copies.

The story ends on a poignant note: Bloom — who used to take her worms

with her on her travels — had to close her own household worm farm

because, inexplicably, it became infested with the worms’ mortal

enemies: fruit flies. Now she is on the hunt for new ways to explore

post-retirement creativity.


The new numbers for Terracycle, after its move to Terracycle, are

609-393-4252; fax, 609-393-4259.

The Coalition for Peace Action number for the November 14 conference

was incorrect. The correct number is 609-924-5022.

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