On June 8, 2018, the Rhode Island House of Representatives’ Finance Committee was given and immediately asked to vote on approval of our State’s budget for the upcoming year. Representatives were quoted in the Providence Journal complaining that they weren’t even given a copy of the bill in time to read it before being asked to vote on it.

“We went through $9.5 billion in about 40 minutes,” said Representative Anthony Giarrusso in the Providence Journal. The House Finance Committees is only of the only groups of legislators charged with applying the most intense scrutiny to the budget of all. Despite this, and in spite of Giarrusso and others’ complaints, a majority of the Finance Committee voted to approve the budget with barely any scrutiny.

This is not sound management. If there were any opportunity to directly influence our quality of life in Rhode Island over the coming year, this is it. Yet seemingly by inherent design, the opportunity for proper review by our both elected representatives and the general public is being limited. These are not conditions that are conducive to participation in a free and open government.

We are urging all members of Rhode Island’s Senate to vote no on approval of this budget, because we do not see that proper opportunity has been afforded the citizens of Rhode Island to review, let alone have discourse on how our State government will operate over the course of the next year.

Many aspects of this budget demonstrate the limited opportunity our Representatives had to develop an educated perspective on the facets of life in Rhode Island they govern. In our case, this budget eliminates a provision that would open more medical cannabis compassion centers in our State, which are needed to ensure patients have proper access to medicine. This budget also opens up our compassion centers to out of state patients. Without the additional capacity to serve this increase in patients, many of the State’s recently approved medical cannabis cultivators will not have the proper distribution channels to deliver their medicine to patients in need, and many of them will be forced to shut down, further jeopardizing patient access.

We are a Rhode Island small business. We do not touch cannabis. We collect food waste from local businesses and feed it to worms, creating an all-natural growing product called worm castings, which is basically worm manure. Among our customers are a number of Rhode Island’s medical cannabis cultivators. We have already lost a number of those customers as a direct result of their inability to find sufficient distribution channels for the medicine they grow. According to the RI Cannabis Association, from loss of cultivators alone, this budget will cost 400 Rhode Islanders their jobs, the State an estimated $1.5 million in payroll taxes, and commercial property owners as much as $4.9 million in lost rent. That does not even begin to include the loss to companies like us.

But that is not the point. We wish this were just about compassion centers. It is not. It is about spending—which determines everything. What else might be in this budget that is important to Rhode Islanders? Health care? Road infrastructure? Small business prosperity? 911 Surcharge funds? Most appalling to consider, why might someone seek to limit the amount of scrutiny the public is able to apply to a proposed budget before it is passed? Even more appalling, why have we seen only limited media attention to the unjustifiably limited amount of time the the House Finance Committee spent reviewing this budget?

We do not find it productive to contemplate such questions, but only to advocate for reform. This culture of politics is dangerous, and one we must call out when we see it. As Rhode Islanders, we may have become complacent with this type of procedure in State government. But we do not have to be. Nor should we be.

To our fellow Rhode Islanders, do not allow yourselves to be deprived of your fundamental right to participate in your own governance—call your Senators today and urge them to vote no on this budget. But most importantly of all, demand sound management practices from your government, and do not become complacent with dysfunctional government.

We urge all of our Senators and Representatives to practice sound management and vote no on approval of this budget for the sake of all Rhode Islanders, because 40 minutes is nowhere near enough time to review $9.5 billion.

You Are What You Eat.

"You Are What You Eat!"

This age old truth is just as valid to worms as it is us humans. The valuable inputs we provide our worms directly result in the quality of their outputs (yes, we mean their poop). Obvious, right?

If wise old sayings don't convince you, instead consider the first law of thermodynamics, Sir Isaac had it right.  Energy can neither be created nor destroyed; rather, it transforms from one form to another.

It's all about the inputs, and at earthly, this is where you will find our key difference: the diversity, balance, and freshness provided by our unique & localized collection/diversion system makes our worms some of the luckiest and healthiest!

We think the results you will see from using our products are proof in the pudding, but if you haven't tried them yet, maybe our lab tests will convince you.

Rhode Island-based company Earthly named finalist for New England Cannabis Convention’s ‘Pitch Slam’

Frank Mastrobuono
General Manager, Earthly


PROVIDENCE -- Earthly, a Rhode Island-based company dedicated to repurposing food waste, recently was named one of three finalists in the New England Cannabis Convention's "Pitch Slam." Over 70 companies applied for the Shark Tank-style competition, which will be held on Saturday, April 22 at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston.

“We’re beyond excited,” co-founder Frank Mastrobuono said. “It is really validation of two years of hard work for us because it demonstrates how our concept really resonates in society.”

Mastrobuono, a Saunderstown native and University of Rhode Island graduate, and his co-founders Mike Kowalczyk, a fellow URI grad, of Newport and Animesh Mishra, a native of Mumbai, India, began Earthly in September 2015. The concept originated when Mastrobuono and Mishra were attending a business school in Boston, and after graduation it evolved when Kowalczyk – who worked with Mastrobuono as a pedicab driver in Newport – came aboard.

From the start, Earthly firmly believed in the power of business to enact real social change.

“We believe that a business that takes care of the community around it is going to in turn be a much healthier business,” Mastrobuono said. “We have a set of values that dictate everything that we do: Community, environment, education, compassion and expression.

“If we have an opportunity to make money that runs contradictory to those values, we won’t do it.”

Today, Earthly collects and processes food waste in urban environments faster and more efficiently than traditional composting operations by feeding it to a specific species of worms. The worms then process the organic material and their manure is referred to as "worm castings," an all-natural and eco-friendly product that can help grow a wide variety of crops.

“Even where food waste is lucky enough to be composted, it’s often trucked 30 or 40 miles outside of a city to costly operations that require lots of land, equipment and skilled labor,” Mastrobuono said. “We went searching for a better solution and discovered vermicomposting, which uses worms to accelerate and enhance the composting process without the heavy machinery or any foul odor.”

Thus far, the cannabis industry has been the group that has shown the most interest in Earthly’s products.

"In our experience, there isn't a single group of consumers that have had the same economic incentive to find effective alternatives to chemical-based nutrients as cannabis growers," Kowalczyk said. "Because cannabis is the highest value cash crop in the country, businesses that are conscious of general market trends stand to benefit considerably by tapping into the same consumer values that are currently driving growth in such sectors as natural foods.

"Our customers are the same people you see in the organic food sections at your local supermarket, except as opposed to food, in many cases they’re concerned about what's going into the cannabis they consume, whether it's being utilized medicinally or even recreationally in neighboring states like Massachusetts."

Although cannabis consumers currently comprise the majority of Earthly's regular customers, the company stresses the wide array of potential applications for its products.

"Cannabis growers are just the early adopters of these techniques," Mastrobuono said. "As an environmental scientist, I firmly believe the techniques cannabis growers are developing in this industry will be used to grow many of our fruits and vegetables in 10 years. Many of our customers already tell us they love being able to say their food was grown from food waste."

Mastrobuono also emphasized that he is thrilled to tell the company’s story in hopes of inspiring others.

"We believe the only limit to solving our society’s problems is our own willingness to be creative,” Mastrobuono said, “and therefore there are plenty of opportunities out there for other businesses like us.”

In addition to the “Pitch Slam,” Mastrobuono will also appear as part of a panel on leadership and social responsibility in the cannabis industry on Sunday, April 23. Earthly will be in booth 622 on the trade show floor throughout the two-day convention, as well.

What are these worm casting things, anyway?

Worm “castings” are what our red wiggler worms excrete after they consume food waste. So yes, “castings” is just a nice word for poop. Worm poop, in this case.

But worm poop = plant food. Big time. Just check out this lemon tree featured on our Facebook page.

What’s great about our worm castings is that because they’re made from food waste, this lemon tree is literally cycling food waste back into the production of food. Nature is amazing, isn’t it? We think so too.

There are three main ways you can use worm castings:

1.         Mix them into your potting soil or garden bed.
Putting some soil in pots for your tomatoes this spring? Great! Mix our fresh worm castings with your favorite potting soil (we recommend going organic if you’re growing consumables) to the tune of about 15% by volume.

2.         Apply them as a top-dressing.
Already potted your plants? No problem. Just spread our castings over the soil surface so it forms a layer about ¼ inch thick. All that natural plant food goodness will trickle right down to your plants’ roots.

3.         Use them to brew an Actively Aerated Compost Tea (AACT).
“Teas”, as they’re commonly referred to, are not something you want to drink. Your plants do, but you don’t. A step-by-step guide to brewing one of these is actually our next blog post, but it basically involves aerating our castings and a few other ingredients in de-chlorinated water for 24-48 hours before immediately applying to your plants. More about this and the science behind it later.

For now, however, there’s just one last VERY important thing. When growing anything with worm castings, you must absolutely USE DE-CHLORINATED WATER to achieve the best results.

You see, chlorine is added to our drinking water to kill microbes that might make you sick. But in the same way that yogurt contains microbes that are good for you, worm castings contain microbes that are good for your plants, and you don’t want to kill them with the chlorine that may be in your tap water. We’ll explain some methods for removing chlorine from tap water in another blog post, but in the meantime you can find chlorine filters online for $20-30 each just by doing a quick search.

Happy planting!