Building Soil Health with Black Diamond Vermicompost
An introduction to Black Diamond Vermicompost
For Cristy Christie of Black Diamond Vermicompost, it all started with the broccoli. With prompting from her sister, and an affinity for gardening, Cristy set to reading about vermicompost in 2009, which she then followed with a cross country tour of worm farms. What she was looking for was how to replicate the natural habitat of red wigglers at her home in Paso Robles. She built her first worm bin, harvested the castings, and tried it out in the garden. Thus, the broccoli. It was the best, most healthy looking broccoli she and her husband had ever had. It didn’t make it to the intended salad, they ate it over the sink! Cristy knew that she had come into something very valuable - in the vermicompost world, they call it ‘black gold’ - and so she and her husband dubbed it ‘Black Diamond’.
“I blame it on my sister. I call myself an uneducated gardener and my sister introduced me to vermicompost as a business idea. After reading the books she gave me, I saw there was a missing piece in my gardening.” - Cristy Christie, Black Diamond Vermicompost
Photo courtesy of Black Diamond Vermicompost
With one worm bin Cristy could service her own garden, and maybe a few neighbors, but she knew she wanted to do more to share the soil wealth! She also knew that ‘vermicompost’ was not an everyday word, so she would need to both scale up her production, and educate customers on how and why they needed to use it.
So, Cristy went all over the county to Gardeners Groups, Newcomers Groups, Festivals, events, etc. so that she could tell customers face-to-face the value of this product for their soil, their garden, their plants, and - ultimately - their health. Vermicompost builds soil ecosystem health holistically by adding beneficial minerals, microbes and mycelium, and it has long lasting beneficial effects on land and crop performance. Once she was able to convey this message and have customers try it, the results were outstanding.
“If I’m going to sell this to people, and I want it to be a really high quality product, I’m going to have to make it really simple in this really complex world of food, growing, what every different soil system needs from one neighbor to the next, etc. - it needs to be simple for all the other uneducated gardeners out there.” - Cristy Christie , Black Diamond Vermicomposting
The Slow Money SLO Solution
Cristy had known of Slow Money SLO since before it even started. She was at the presentation from Slow Money founder Woody Tasch where Jeff Wade (now Founder and Executive Director of Slow Money SLO) volunteered to start the local chapter. Cristy and Jeff have kept in contact since then, and Jeff has been especially supportive in helping with business strategy and planning once Black Diamond Vermicompost became a Small Business Development Center (SBDC) client in 2017.
Soon after their product started being applied in SLO County gardens, Cristy started receiving rave reviews from customers and product demand quickly increased. Cristy needed to scale up once again, and so she reached out to Jeff for advice on how to finance the growth. Jeff recommended Kiva, and the company completed their raise in 2019 which enabled them to grow their production capacity.
“The most help was Jeff strategizing with me, as well as the financial advisors at SBDC plugging in the numbers to help project how best to structure our retail business.” - Cristy Christie, Black Diamond Vermicompost
Black Diamond Vermicompost is now a well known organic certified fertilizer in our Central Coast region among backyard gardeners and commercial farmers alike. Cristy and her husband have built a worm barn where the little wigglers are cool, moist, and happy chowing down on organic material. Cristy is happy to keep their production and distribution at a regional scale, for now, so that freight and logistics do not become overwhelming. She has a true sustainability mindset when it comes to her business growth and plans - she wants to impact as much soil as possible, while still being able to make herself available to educate users on how the product works, and why it is important for the planet.
“I had no idea how much our product would outperform other similar products on the market. The expansion helps us keep up with demand, and there are plenty of new customers in the area to reach with our current offerings, until we are ready to grow some more. ” - Cristy Christie, Black Diamond Vermicompost
Photo courtesy of Black Diamond Vermicompost
What’s next for Black Diamond Vermicompost
Cristy looks forward to hosting visitors at the worm farm in Paso Robles in the future. She is also working on a compost tea project that has some exciting and widely impactful potential in the larger scale agricultural sector. She and her husband are balancing the two branches of the business and are enthusiastic about continuing the mission to improve soil health holistically!
If you or someone you know has a great product idea but isn’t sure how to make the dream real, head on over to our Grow Your Business page and fill out the form! We want to hear about it and how Slow Money SLO might be able to assist!