Mary Arlene Appelhof

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Mary Arlene Appelhof
Born (1936-06-11)June 11, 1936
Detroit, Michigan, USA
Died May 4, 2005(2005-05-04) (aged 68)
Rochester, Minnesota, USA
Cause of death Peritoneal cancer
Resting place Benzonia, Michigan, USA
Residence Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA
Nationality American
Education B.S. and M.S. from Michigan State University
Occupation Biologist, teacher, artist, vermicomposting innovator and advocate, and public speaker
Years active 1960-2005
Organization Kalamazoo Central High School, Kalamazoo, Michigan and Flowerfield Enterprises
Known for Developing and advocating worm composting system and environmental activism
Notable work

Worms Eat My Garbage

Worm-a-Way® worm bin
Home town Alma and Berea, Ohio
Movement Environmentalism
Parent(s) Rev. Gilbert Appelhof, Jr. and Hilda Whiteley Appelhof
Awards National Women's History Project Honoree

Mary Arlene Appelhof (1936-2005) was an American biologist, vermicomposter, and environmentalist.[1] In 2009 she was designated a Women's History Month Honoree by the National Women's History Project.[2]

Family and education[edit]

Mary A. Appelhof was born in Detroit, Michigan on June 11, 1936, being the daughter of Rev. Gilbert G. Appelhof, Jr. and Hilda Whiteley Appelhof.[3] Her father was Pastor of St. John Episcopal Church in Alma, Ohio and St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Berea, Ohio.[4] In 1954 she graduated from Berea High School in Berea, Ohio and in 1958 graduated from Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan with a B.S. in biology.[3][5] In 1959 Appelhof graduated from Michigan State University with an M.S. degree in biology.[5] She later earned an M.S. degree in education and studied advanced biology, an experience totalling five years of study.[3]

Appelhof had many talents, including expert swimming and award-winning nature photography.[6] She taught science at Kalamazoo Central High School in Kalamazoo, Michigan and taught at Interlochen Arts Academy in Interlochen, Michigan.[3]

Designing and promoting worm systems[edit]

In the early 1970s Mary Appelhof began experimenting with worms and organic waste. Her home worm container would become a new career.[7]

"Her vision at the time of the Stockholm Conference for the Human Environment (1972) was "tons of worms could be eating tons of garbage." [7]

Soon she was publicly advocating using the earthworm to recycle food waste.[7] As “Worm Woman,” she introduced thousands of schoolchildren and home gardeners to vermicomposting. She was awarded a National Science Foundation grant to do videomicroscopy of live worms.[8][9] This resulted in a DVD "Wormania."[9][10]

Flower Press[edit]

Mary Appelhof purchased an old mimeograph machine from the Democratic Party in the early 1970s.[11] She used it to produce a brochure, "Basement Worm Bins Produce Potting Soil and Reduce Garbage."[11] By 1976 her publishing interests were firm, and she founded Flower Press. She later explained her thoughts on self-publishing her bestseller, Worms Eat My Garbage.[12]

My goal, however, was not to make lots of money, but to influence people's thinking. To get them to think differently about waste, and give them tools to deal with it. Self-publishing my book was the way I could do that. So I learned what I had to learn to be able to do so.[13]



  1. ^ "National Women's History Project". Retrieved 2013-12-27. 
  2. ^ "Honorees: 2010 National Women’s History Month". Women's History Month. National Women's History Project. 2010. Retrieved 14 November 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Mary Arlene Appelhof". 
  4. ^ "Hilda Whiteley Appelhof". Grand Traverse County Deaths & Obits. Retrieved 24 Jan 2013. 
  5. ^ a b "APPELHOF, Mary Arlene: Newspaper Obituary and Death Notice". Kalamazoo Gazette. 10 May 2005. 
  6. ^ Walker, Emily. "'Worm woman’ leaves a legacy of teaching about environment". In Memorian. 
  7. ^ a b c "mary arlene appelhof "the worm woman"". A Biography of the Day. Retrieved 24 Jan 2013. 
  8. ^ "Celebrating gardening, plants, and weeds". EmilyCompost. Retrieved 2013-12-27. 
  9. ^ a b "In Memory of Mary Appelhof – The Worm Women". The Compost Bin. Retrieved 24 Jan 2013. 
  10. ^ "Wormania". Flowerfield Enterprises. 
  11. ^ a b "Mary Appelhof". Flowerfield Enterprises Articles. Retrieved 25 Jan 2013. 
  12. ^ Appelhof, Mary (1976). Worms Eat My Garbage. Kalamazoo, MI: Flower Press. 
  13. ^ Appelhof, Mary. "Why I Chose to Self- Publish". Flowerfield Enterprises. Retrieved 25 Jan 2013. 

External links[edit]