When growing worms did not lead to riches as promised

Hundreds of Canadians believed they were going to make money by growing earthworms. But that's not what happened.

In the 1970s, hundreds of Canadians spent money to grow worms for profits that didn't emerge

When the RCMP investigated ... worms

43 years ago
Duration 2:13
In 1979, the RCMP was investigating money-making worm-ranching schemes.

Hundreds of Canadians thought they were going to make money by cultivating earthworms more than 40 years ago.

When they didn't, the RCMP's commercial fraud branch got involved in trying to figure out why.

"The RCMP says there may be as many as 10 companies in Ontario and the West selling worm-raising kits," the CBC's Terry Matte reported on The National on June 10, 1979.

Yet according to the RCMP, several hundred Canadians were "already raising worms and many can't find a market for their product."

Buyer beware?

RCMP Cpl. Jim Adlington told The National that the people who had bought into the worm-growing business had been promised "vast profits with very little work." (The National/CBC Archives)

The National reported these Canadians had spent money to take part in the "worm-ranching" business on the belief they would be able to sell back the worms they produced at a profit.

But that's not what happened and The National reported some people allegedly lost large sums of money as a result.

"There's a rumour that one couple dropped $40,000," said Matte, citing a figure that would be more than $150,000 today.

RCMP Cpl. Jim Adlington told The National these Canadians had been promised "vast profits with very little work."

He added: "The phrase caveat emptor becomes very important: let the buyer beware."

Worms, but no buyers

Gaston Corneillie told CBC he hoped to find some sort of market for the earthworms he'd grown. (The National/CBC Archives)

The National spoke to Gaston Corneillie, a bus driver from Winnipeg, who, along with his wife, had spent $3,000 to get in on the worm-growing business. 

The couple had answered a newspaper ad and then received a visit from a salesman.

Matte said they had been led to believe they would be paid $3 a pound by a Tennessee-based company for any worms they grew.

The worms would be used as "bait for fishermen and other purposes," said Matte.

But that company went out of business shortly after the Corneillies had started growing worms. And it was subsequently being investigated by the RCMP and some U.S. agencies.

"Now the Corneillies can't get anybody to buy their worms," said Matte.

'I got taken'

Gaston Corneillie is seen watering earthworms that he and his wife had been raising in 1979. (The National/CBC Archives)

"I got taken ... but it's a lesson, unless I can find another way out," said Gaston Corneillie.

"I think there is still some market for it, but I really haven't found it yet."

Two years later, The Canadian Press reported that the RCMP had identified eight Americans who would face fraud charges if they entered Canada in the future.

According to the report, which ran in The Globe and Mail on Aug. 21, 1981, the charges related to 30 Manitobans who had paid money to a Tennessee-based company to grow worms that allegedly promised to pay those people for their worms.

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