WEDGEPORT — In his cupped hand, Neil LeBlanc Jr. holds what appear to be chocolate cupcake sprinkles.

Looks can be deceiving.

Each tiny black granule is actually a piece of worm excrement. Collectively, the stuff is more commonly known as worm castings.

LeBlanc and his wife, Shannon, started a new company, Growing Green Earthworm Castings, in July.

Worms eat and excrete. But their castings are considered to be some of the best soil-enriching fertilizer additives on the market.

It was actually the price of lobster that prompted LeBlanc to make his bold move.

“I had never done anything like this before,” he said Thursday at the facility they now rent in Wedgeport, Yarmouth County.

“I’m a lobster fisherman. I’m finding it tough the last couple of years to earn my keep,” he said, making a direct reference to the low prices fishermen get for their catches.

And LeBlanc wanted something else to do that did not involve moving out west.

So he purchased worm food recipes and spent time in the United States learning the trade from others.

Greenhouse plants and gardens benefit from the worm castings, which some folks call soil amendments.

“Instead of using chemicals, you can add this to your soil and it helps your stuff grow.”

LeBlanc has shipped some product already and has some more stockpiled, but it now looks like he may not be able to keep up with demand this spring as orders come in from customers across the province, as well as from New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador.

The LeBlancs are now looking for a bigger place to keep their worms.

It smells like a garden after a spring rain in their present building where the humidity is kept at about 67 per cent.

Bedding material is kept in the dirt room.

With a front-end loader, they bring in rich compost topsoil.

LeBlanc tries to keep the dirt at 18 C.

He applies worm food that he mixes himself.

“We kind of purchased the recipe,” he said of the special worm diet.

Nothing in the worm chow is genetically modified. It is an all-natural mixture of grains and things like that.

“Then I run it through this machine (that) actually fluffs it up, aerates it,” said LeBlanc.

The smooth soil is then ready for a bucket of worms.

“Every worm, I know how old they are because I incubate the eggs,” said LeBlanc.

How many worms live on site?

“We’re not really sure, but we’re thinking close to 200,000.”

Worms do reproduce often. The company started in July with only 8,000 worms.

“They are European night crawlers. I bought them in the (United) States.”

The worm room is where crawlers are placed in buckets to do their thing.

The castings appear after 14 days of living the good life in nutrient-rich, aerated soil.

“When I started in July, there were 24 buckets. I have over 700 (buckets) now,” said LeBlanc.

And the little crawlers can live a long and productive life with some six- or seven year-old worms churning out their black gold, said LeBlanc.

Old worms are sold as bait for sport fishermen.

The family used personal investments to start the business. There has been no government help yet, although provincial and federal representatives have visited the worm company.

“We’re actually going to have a business plan done ... with a little bit of assistance from the government,” said LeBlanc.

“We’re definitely looking for a bigger facility.”

They will also need more staff.

“Right now, it’s just Shannon and I.”

You can find them on Facebook at Growing Green Earthworm Castings.

(bmedel@herald.ca)