News / USA

Tobacco Farmers Harvest Shrimp

Aquaculture is fast-growing industry

Multimedia

Audio
Mike Osborne

It’s harvest time in Tennessee, but the Corbin family matriarch isn’t gearing up to harvest the typical corn, cotton, or soybeans.

Jane Corbin and her sons are draining a pond to gather the fresh water shrimp, or prawns, they’ve been raising for the past five months. Corbin says she got into aquaculture, a segment of the agriculture industry valued at $70 billion a year, almost by accident.

“I had never met anyone who had done this and I’d never seen a freshwater prawn," Corbin says, "but I had read about it and I just thought it sounded interesting.”

Curiosity may have led Corbin, who also grows tobacco, into aquaculture in the late 1990s, but other farmers in the American South gave it a try because state and federal agencies were encouraging them to switch from tobacco.

Although it has been a staple of American farming since the nation’s colonial days, tobacco has been in steady decline in recent years.

“It was advertised as an alternative to your tobacco crop as far as your income was concerned," Corbin says, referring to prawn farming."That did not ring true. That wasn’t why I got into it, of course, but a lot of people did and they saw that that was not a fact.”

Some of the prawns harvested by the Corbin family, tobacco farmers who have gotten into aquaculture.
Some of the prawns harvested by the Corbin family, tobacco farmers who have gotten into aquaculture.

Tony Johnston, who teaches agriculture and food science at nearby Middle Tennessee State University, says the challenge in finding alternatives to tobacco is that most tobacco farms are relatively small. The average farm in Tennessee is less than 15 hectares.

“The big issue for all the tobacco growing states is to find those small crops, those niche crops," Johnston says, "that would provide enough cash flow with fairly similar amounts of area on which you plant your crop.”

According to Johnston, the niche crops that enjoy the most success seem to be those that get consumers down on the farm and invested in the process. Jee Jayme is a good example of that. She’s been buying prawns from the Corbins for years, and enjoys helping with the harvest.

“It’s their kindness and their genuine spirit that I keep on coming back here," Jayme says. "And more especially, it’s from here in the U.S., not from China or some other foreign country, but it’s more here in Tennessee.”

The same weekend the Corbins are harvesting their prawns, they're also harvesting tobacco in the same field.

While niche crops clearly haven’t replaced tobacco on American farms, Johnston says the experiment has had some value. “What I see is farmers who are realizing that they can’t rely on a single crop. They have to diversify. Basically, the door has been opened and people are starting to think outside the proverbial box.”

The Corbins still grow some tobacco, but they have diversified more than most: raising cattle, traditional row crops, flowers and vegetables, as well as prawns. It’s a challenge Corbin enjoys.

“I think it’s very rewarding to see what you’ve grown and what you’ve been able to produce," she says. "You just have a feeling of satisfaction.”

There may also be satisfaction in being involved in one of the fastest growing forms of food production in the world.

You May Like

Video Video Claims to Show Shi'ite Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

While not yet independently confirmed, brutal killing already has gotten attention of Islamic State followers on social media More

After Six Years, Little Change for Niger Delta's Former Militants

Nigerians who laid down arms in exchange for government amnesty subsidies fear program may end with upcoming presidential elections More

Vietnam Pushes for More Educated Drivers to Curb Road Deaths

Transportation officials hope that making a greater effort to get drivers to learn the rules of the road will reduce fatal crashes More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boyi
X
Jeff Seldin
March 05, 2015 2:36 AM
A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960's Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7th to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960’s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More