Inch by inch: Local woman runs bait worm farm out of garage

Sheila Funk, who owns Worm Goddess Worms in Newton, feeds her worms in her garage. “The worms don’t talk back,” Funk said. “It’s relaxing, really. Come out here and sift the worms. My mother always said I like to play in the dirt. I can’t sit still. I enjoy it. It makes me a little bit of money.” Wendy Nugent/Newton Now

By Wendy Nugent, Newton Now

NEWTON—Newton resident Sheila Funk went fishing for a career and found one raising and selling bait worms.

Funk’s sold thousands and thousands of worms in her lifetime, starting three years before 9/11.

There’s a reason why she went into that business when she lived in Indiana.

“Somebody told me it was easy,” Funk said, standing in her garage-turned-worm-farm.

Funk ran a wholesale worm business there for a number of years and then moved back to Newton two years ago.

“I got bored in June,” she said as the reason why she started up her local business, Worm Goddess Worms. The local operation is on a smaller scale than the one in Indiana.

After she got bored, Funk called a friend and asked for worms, starting out with babies.

“By the time I got them in tubs, I think I had 19,000,” Funk said, adding it takes 21 days for a worm to go from an egg to a baby and from a baby to full grown it’s about a month.

Funk said she sold her worm farm, Beaver Bait in Indiana (it was named after the township in which she lived, Beaver Township), in 2016.

“We imported them from the Netherlands,” she said, adding someone told her this type of worm was found in the tomato pits in Ireland.

“It really don’t take a big worm to catch a fish,” Funk said, adding she visited the farm in the Netherlands twice. “I said I wasn’t going to do this again, but I got bored.”

While in Indiana, her business supplied worms to Michigan, Wisconsin, Kentucky and other places unknown for bait to supply houses, bait shops and wholesalers.

“Everybody wanted them,” Funk said about the dendrobaena worms, adding their castings, or poo, is great fertilizer for flower gardens and houseplants.

She showed photos of some of her plants she used the castings on, which were big, lush and green. Funk sells a 5-gallon bucket of castings for $5 and said such animals as turtles, rats and pet mice like to eat them.

At her business in Indiana, they had to prepare many worms for shipping.

“I could cup 20,000 worms in 15 minutes,” Funk said about her speed.

There, they had 925 tubs containing 2,500 worms each. That’s about 2.313 million creatures.

“That’s a lot of worms,” Funk said.

Back then, they’d have 4 tons of worms delivered per week, and every one of those worms laid an egg per day, since worms are both sexes.

For her Indiana business, Funk said she decided to do bait and messaged a friend in the Netherlands and asked the friend to find her a family worm farm. She got the worms from them, but she always had to pick the worms up at a Detroit airport or O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. Then she started to purchase from a place in South Carolina.

“We had to buy a mortar mixer to mix bedding up,” she said.

She also mixes food for the worms, which includes worm chow, wheat bran and wheat midds.

There’s reasons Funk likes the business.

“The worms don’t talk back,” she said. “It’s relaxing, really. Come out here and sift the worms. My mother always said I like to play in the dirt. I can’t sit still. I enjoy it. It makes me a little bit of money.”

Contact information

Funk charges $3.50 for 28 worms. Those wishing to purchase worms or castings can call her at 316-416-5647.