The ninth annual Sopchoppy Worm Gruntin' Festival is coming up in April in Sopchoppy, Wakulla County Florida. Sopchoppy is a small town in the Florida panhandle just south of Tallahassee, and happens to be where my father was born, the most successful earthworm farmer that I know.
My father didn't grunt, but he did know how to grow earthworms in a worm bed. If you don't know what "worm gruntin'" is I'll explain. A wooden stake called a "stob" is driven into the ground and a strip of iron known as a "rooping iron" is rubbed across the wooden stake that produces a grunting sound. This causes the ground to vibrate. The vibration mimics that of a digging mole, a predator of the earthworm. The worms rise to the surface and are then collected by the worm grunter to be used as fish bait.
Sopchoppy is known as the worm gruntin' capitol of the world because the soil and conditions in the Apalachicola National Forest make it a perfect breeding ground for earthworms. Many locals in the area have made a good living selling earthworms without having to raise them. All they have to do is go into the woods, "grunt" for worms, and pick them up off of the ground when they surface. They can get thousands at a time. Remember that this is regional so other areas of the country may not be as successful.
The heyday of earthworm grunting came to an end in 1972 when CBS reporter Charles Kuralt featured a story about a local Sopchoppy bait dealer. The dealer claimed that he made hundreds of thousands of dollars "gruntin' worms and was brought to the attention of the IRS and United States Forest Service. Now grunters have to pay $15 for a permit.
I've never grunted for earthworms but I spent a few years growing earthworms along with my father. Being from Sopchoppy, he probably has done it himself but he has never mentioned it to me. All I know is that he had a method of raising earthworms that worked on a large scale as well as a small scale. If you follow my instructions at How To Raise Earthworms For Beginners, you can do it too. It isn't that hard, but it takes time to get positive results. He started out with a small home worm bed and grew it into a full fledged working worm farm that produced tons of worm castings and hundreds of thousands of cups of fishing worms. He started out in his early 50's, ran his business for twenty years and was able to retire comfortably.