It may be a slimy way to make some money, but 11-year-old Casey Brown has no qualms of cashing in on the seasonal demand for the worm-like creatures known as nightcrawlers, or, more accurately, Lumbricus Terrestris.
Casey and her family, who are avid fishers, have been picking nightcrawlers from their backyard in Hunts Point, Queens County, for years. In 2019 it was decided to turn it into a business.
"Me and my mom and dad would pick worms for fun, and we just decided we really like doing it," explained Casey. While, according to her mother, Laurie-Anne Brown, turning this interest into a business is teaching the youngster some valuable lessons.
"Part of the idea of this was to teach her how to manage her own money, and to kind of develop an entrepreneurial mind about things, understanding that you have to work hard to make and manage your money," she said, adding that Casey bought a fridge and all of her containers with the money she has earned.
"Now, when she wants something that is a little more extravagant, she can decide whether she wants to dip into her own money for it. I do find now that since she has her own money that she understands how hard it is to make a dollar, and she doesn't want to part with it as quickly."
Casey began selling night crawlers to friends and family and through Facebook in 2019 and fared well. Although COVID-19 slowed things a bit in 2020, she expects 2021 to be a big year.
She sells the nighcrawlers for $3.75 per dozen, while most stores offering live worms, many of which are imported from Quebec, price them at $6 a dozen, plus tax.
Nightcrawlers are larger versions of your average earthworm. As their name suggests, they come out at night, and are normally found about halfway out of the ground, making for easy picking.
"You have to have warm temperatures and it must be damp," explained Casey. "You just grab them and pull them out and do it so they don't break."
They've been plucking the worms from their own property, heading outside at about 10 p.m. and picking for one or two hours. They can gather upwards of 300 worms an hour.
According to Casey's father, Jamie Brown, his daughter enjoyed picking worms from a young age.
"It's something she has done since she has been able to walk, pretty well," he said. "She would come out with me and pick them."
During the first year, Jamie would take her out at night to collect the worms, sometimes along with her younger brother Keith. The following day, Casey would package them. Meanwhile, mom would oversee taking the orders and delivering them.
"The orders started coming in more and more rapidly, and people were taking quite a liking to the whole idea of the business," said Laurie-Anne.
The second year, they had people pick up their orders. This year, Casey has added a bright yellow fridge and a lock box outside so people can just pick them up when they need them.
Casey sold $300 worth in her first year of business, and $400 the following year.
Looking ahead, Casey wants to expand the business by selling the creatures to stores, which have already expressed interest in having them.
However, her parents are encouraging her to take things slowly and make sure she's confident about keeping up with the demand.
Most would likely agree, there's nothing slimy about that sound advice.