Ana Maria Quintero was nominated by her colleague Lisa Pineda, President of Sustainable Urban Agriculture Coalition. Here's what Pineda had to say about Quintero: "This program would not be possible without community members like Ana Maria. She is the owner of Laica Worms & Vermicast and has offered her expertise in helping develop a Personal Development & Entrepreneurship class. The youth at John Hopkins Middle School and Lakewood Elementary School are learning about the importance of nutrition from the soil and food waste management. Ana Maria has helped the youth build their own worm bins and taught them the basis of vermicompost to address food waste and make our own organic fertilizer for our gardens. The students are excited and engaged and it is truly heartwarming that many bring food scraps and paper towel and TP rolls for the worms. I think that the community would be inspired to hear and see what she is doing and the impact she is making."
Years in St. Pete
Organizations involved in
I’m Secretary on the Executive Board of Directors at Sustainable Urban Agriculture Coalition, a 501c3 nonprofit organization based in St. Petersburg. I’m the owner and founder of Laica Worms and Vermicast LLC, Waste Management through worm farming of red wigglers worms since 2016. I’m also involved with the UF/IFAS Extension Family Nutrition Program, free nutrition education for SNAP-eligible people in Florida since 1996.
What gets you out of bed every day?
Checking on my red wiggler worms is on the top of the list! They are very sensitive to subtle environmental changes, and each morning when I wake up I am always wondering how they are and what I may need to do to make sure they’re comfortable for the day. I also live for the spark of excitement in children’s eyes when I go out to the classrooms to teach about vermiculture. I bring all the worms and bugs to the classroom, and they love it. It’s so heartwarming. Furthermore, I’m amazed at how many conversations I have as I go about my day that will evolve into a dialogue about food waste management and the struggles of our local community, due to the high population influx moving to the area. These conversations are so enriching, and I am able to share my knowledge about how to address these issues and make a difference in the community by working with our worm allies; by using the worm castings as natural fertilizer for their plants. I have partnered with organizations aligned with my mission, such as Sustainable Urban Agriculture SUAC, which shares my passion to cultivate sustainable food systems in which communities operate in self-sustaining and regenerative ways to not only survive, but thrive.
Why St. Pete?
The weather and the natural landscapes are immaculate, especially a sunrise and a bike ride.
What is one habit that you keep?
Volunteering my time.
Who are some people that influence you?
Lisa Pineda, the president of the Sustainable Urban Agriculture Coalition (SUAC), an activist and volunteer, doula and community health worker. Jane Goodall, the founder of Roots and Shoot and the Jane Goodall Institute. Professor Dr. Christopher Mendl, Associate Professor and Director for the Florida Studies Program
What is one piece of insight - a book, methodology, practice - that you would share with our readers?
The art of worm farming. It consists of farming composting worms, and using them to transform your excess food waste into worm castings rich in nutrients that will release slowly into the soil and feed plant roots. The worms are kept in a worm farm with a controlled environment; inside it has a combination of food scraps which work as the nitrogen, and the bedding such as untreated mulch and shredded cardboard carbon which make the decomposition process in composting happen. Worms do the turning for you creating tunnels when they burrow, speeding up the process. The final product, the worm castings, are ocean friendly, pet friendly, have high water retention capacity and are five times more rich in macronutrients (NPK) than other non organic fertilizers. Worm farming varies around the world, and some of the countries where it’s most popular are Australia, India and Chile.
What is one thing you wish you knew about your work 3 years ago?
Worm farming can be taught to all ages – and not everyone likes bugs and worms. But it’s OK, there are some people who love them the same way I do!
I am preparing to expand my reach to teach worm farming to different schools in the area by setting up worm farms, in addition to helping restaurants, gardens and people interested in starting their own worm farms at home. I ultimately hope to reach any location that may produce food waste. It’s my mission to help as many people as possible in becoming responsible food stewards while reducing food waste in the city of St Pete. The Pinellas County Solid Waste Facility will be at capacity soon with overloads of food waste, as a geographer I would like to do my part in contributing to solve this issue with the help of Laica Worms. I also want to encourage everyone to volunteer and join a meeting with SUAC (at Enoch D. Davis Center) to help equitable access to local healthy food for everyone – and to learn about sustainability and cultivation from our speakers.