From Aviation to Agriculture

Andrea Blum used to build and operate airports around the world for a living. Now her life’s work has shifted to helping people build nutrient-rich soil through her Pacific Composting Company.

pacific composting andrea pic

Andrea Blum, Serena Haley photo.

From Aviation to Agriculture: Andrea Blum's Transition from Building Airports to Building Soil

By Brenlee Brothers

Andrea Blum used to build and operate airports around the world for a living. Now her life’s work has shifted to helping people build nutrient-rich soil through her Pacific Composting Company.

pacific composting lavender 1After living and working in Latin America for a decade, Blum decided it was time to leave the aviation industry and return to Canada to put roots down with her family. They settled on a 14-acre property just outside Duncan, B.C., and Blum decided it was her duty to make the property as biodiverse as possible. 

Through this pursuit, she found Gaia College. It was during one of their courses that she built a DIY worm bin as part of a composting assignment, and had the thought, “This is what I was put on this planet to do.” To take what would otherwise be waste and convert it into an incredible, highly valuable resource that sustains gardens and greenspaces. The idea sent Blum on a mission to educate people about the benefit and utility of composting.

After completing her Diploma in Organic Land Care at Gaia College, Blum worked with the college for three years, handling social outreach and marketing efforts. “I’m so grateful to Gaia College for the excellent education and wonderful community they have been cultivating for over 25 years,” Blum said. She also completed four foundation courses at Dr. Elaine Ingham’s Soil Food Web School.

Since then, Blum spent several years consulting with worm experts from around North America before launching Pacific Composting Company in July 2023. “When you find what sets your soul on fire… it's like all the pieces just fall into place,” she said. 

Blum has tested every composting system readily available, and only sells those that meet her standard and provide good value. Her company promotes multiple composting approaches such as vermicomposting, layered composting and bokashi, providing solutions on scales ranging from apartment balconies to farms. “We prefer to promote multiple composting approaches, as well as various integrated systems and other farming practices, to demonstrate that there is even more potential when you combine strategies and just generally view things from a more holistic perspective,” Blum said. 

pacific composting wormsIn basic terms, an outdoor layered system is great if you have a lot of food and yard waste, bokashi uses an anaerobic process to ferment food that cannot normally be turned into compost such as meat, dairy, citrus, garlic and onion, and the most popular option is vermicomposting – worms that produce a nutrient rich excretion called castings. Though each system can be designed specifically to meet its user’s needs, all three options make great partner systems, Blum said.

Municipal recycling strategies across Canada are often changing,which may put more  responsibility to deal with food waste onto residents. Knowing how to effectively turn food waste into compost is an important and empowering tool.

Blum’s clientele is targeted at eco-conscious homeowners, homesteaders and small soil blenders, which makes up a diverse range of people. A lot of people want to get into composting, but they don’t know how, Blum said. “They need the educational component.” And education is at the heart of what Blum does. She has spent countless hours volunteering at local schools and community events to educate students and people about the magic of compost. “Whether communicating with existing customers, or the public at large, we always aim to go above and beyond to provide people with the information they need to be successful in composting,” she said.

Blum hgeodesic domeas set up her property with education in mind by building a geodesic dome to offer workshops about organic gardening, composting, native plants, ecological landscape design, foraging, and permaculture.

 Pacific Composting is building an extensive library of composting resources and information on its website. “You can’t expect people to change or want to do these things if you’re not going to provide the support,” Blum said. The website also has a quiz where you can find out which composting system works best for you.

On her property, Blum has built a 1,500-square-foot “Worm Pasture” which, to her knowledge, is the first in Canada. She has been adding to the layers in the pasture for a year, starting with a thick layer of alder chips, followed by layers of manure, alder bark mulch and various other materials. The pasture was seeded with fall rye, then the process of adding manures and seeding was repeated several times. This past summer she grew 30 kinds of crops in the worm pasture, including borage, radish, melons, and bok choy. At the end of the season she did a chop and drop, layered manure on top, added more worms and seeded it again with fall rye.

worm pasture

 Red wigglers need a lot of organic matter, she said. “That's why we don’t recommend putting them in gardens, because they need steady moisture and high organic matter which a lot of gardens can’t provide. This is a very specialized and built system that seems like a big garden, and in essence it kind of is, but it’s been very properly layered and strategically built. So, if the worms have what they need, they're going to stay. If they don’t, they're going to keep on going in search of it.” Food grown in the worm pasture is incredibly nutrient dense because it’s grown in castings, and the worms help to aerate and fertilize plant roots.

Pacific Composting emphasizes the health and well-being of its worms, Blum said, and encourages customers to do the same. “When you understand the biology and ecology of these amazing organisms, and you do your best to help them thrive, the results are going to be that much better.”

Composting is a helpful way to lessen your carbon footprint, creating nutrient and microbe rich food for your soil. Blum would like to see a world where everyone composts their food waste. Pacific Composting provides the systems, supplies, and education needed to make soil richer.

pacific composting red wigglers

Photography credits

Lavender from Andrea’s ¼ acre lavender labyrinth. Serena Haley photo.

Red wiggler worms in their climate controlled facility. Serena Haley photo.

Geodesic dome for indoor workshops. Andrea Blum photo.

1,500-square-foot worm pasture. Andrea Blum photo.

Packaged worms from Pacific Composting. Serena Haley photo.

To keep up with Andrea Blum's business, Pacific Composting, visit their website and follow them on Facebook and Instagram

About the Author

Brenlee Brothers lives in Prince Edward Island. She has an Applied Journalism Degree from UPEI and currently works in the native plant nursery at Macphail Woods Forestry Project. Writing articles for Gaia College helps bridge her interests of organic farming, ecological landscape restoration, and nature education.