A personal message from Dr. Elaine Ingham,
The day I returned from South Africa, I learned that Mary Appelhof had been very ill for the last month with cancer. She passed away on May 4.
How do I express the loss we all feel at her passing? She was mentor, friend, educator, shoulder-to-cry-on, and well-respected author of the best book on practical worm-composting, “Worms Eat My Garbage”. We have to make sure that book never goes out-of-print.
Mary influenced the world with her efforts. She was a dear friend. She spurred me to greater effort and supported my passion for living soil. We are kindred spirits, soul sisters. Death cannot change that. But I will miss her voice on the phone, and her annual visits to Oregon. Mary understood my requirement to comprehend all that goes on in the soil, the need to measure those processes, and to predict what effect those processes have on plant health.
Dr. Elaine R. Ingham
‘Worm woman’ leaves a legacy of teaching about environmentKalamazoo Gazette
Thursday, May 5, 2005
By Emily Walker
A compost enthusiast who was known worldwide as the “worm woman,” and known to her friends as a caring and ambitious environmentalist with a passion for nature and knowledge, died Tuesday.
Mary Appelhof, 68, of Kalamazoo, died just weeks after being diagnosed with cancer of the abdominal lining.
Despite her declining health, friend and business partner Nancy Essex said Appelhof so loved to spread her knowledge, often of nature and biology, that she taught people as long as she had breath. Essex worked with Appelhof at the Portage publishing company Flowerfield Enterprises, which Appelhof had owned for more than 30 years.
Longtime friend River Artz said if you ran into Appelhof at a party, you’d get a lengthy account of whatever Appelhof had recently learned. She was always seeking knowledge and sharing it with others, her friends said.
Essex laughed when she recalled one of her favorite memories of Appelhof. About 20 years ago, a group of her friends were camping on Appelhof’s property on Lake Michigan and they sat in a circle like schoolchildren as Appelhof gave them a geology lesson by using rocks she found on the shore.
Appelhof previously taught at Kalamazoo Central High School. After leaving the teaching profession, she devoted a large part of her life to informing others about vermicomposting, the method of using worms to convert household garbage into nutrient-rich fertilizer for gardens and household plants.
Appelhof wrote “Worms Eat My Garbage” and “Worms Eat Our Garbage” and produced a video called “Wormania.”
“She wanted to change the way the world thought about garbage,” said Mary Frances Fenton, Appelhof’s partner of 27 years.
Appelhof traveled around the world to places like Russia, Ireland, England and Australia to share her ideas about vermicomposting. In 2000, Appelhof organized a huge vermicomposting seminar in Comstock called “Vermillenium” that drew people from as far as Australia, Japan and Italy.
Friends say Appelhof was an award-winning nature photographer, trained to be an Olympic swimmer until she enrolled in Michigan State University (where she earned two master’s degrees,) and had earned such recognition in vermicomposting that a huge photo of her hung in the Smithsonian Institution above a worm exhibit.
Sharon Roepke, Appelhof’s friend and director of the Kalamazoo Gay/Lesbian Resource Center, where Appelhof volunteered, said when she first met Appelhof, she was struck by how motivated she was to discover knowledge that would help the world.
in this country has done more for the self-image of worms than Mary Appelhof,
the undisputed and nationally recognized, "Worm Woman."
Mary Appelhof, founder of Flowerfield Enterprises 30 years ago, was a world famous author, lecturer, educator, and champion for conservation and ecological awareness. Her famous book, “Worms Eat My Garbage,” has been translated into Korean, French, German and Japanese. She used her tireless energy to promote the idea that individuals can take the initiative to reduce waste and pollution and grow safer and more nutritious foods.
At the time of her death in 2005 Mary had studied the effects of compost and compost tea and how they could be used at the local level to improve our farms, lawns, and gardens. Flowerfield Enterprises is dedicated to continuing Mary Appelhof’s legacy of improving the environment through knowledge and service to the public. We are proud to announce the introduction of Flowerfield Compost Tea.