News / USA

Tobacco Farmers Harvest Shrimp

Aquaculture is fast-growing industry

Multimedia

Audio
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Turkish Law Gives Spy Agency Controversial Powers

Parliament approves legislation to bolster powers of intelligence service, which government claims is necessary to modernize and deal with new threats Turkey faces More

Video Face of American Farmer Changing

Average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population 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.
Face of American Farmer is Changingi
X
Mike Osborne
April 18, 2014
The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid