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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

US Urges Restraint in Hong Kong Protests

Protesters angered by Beijing's decision to only approve candidates that it sanctions for Hong Kong's leadership elections in 2017 More

Archive of Forgotten UCLA Speeches Offers Snapshot of History

Recordings of prominent voices in social change, politics, science and literature from 1960s, early 1970s now available on YouTube 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.
Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenyai
X
Gabe Joselow
September 29, 2014 6:20 PM
Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Video

Video Reconstruction? What Reconstruction? Life After War in Gaza

It’s been a month since Israel and the Palestinians agreed to a ceasefire to end 52 days of an air and tank war that left 60,000 homes in Gaza damaged or destroyed and 110,000 homeless. Sharon Behn reports that lack of reconstruction is leading to despair.
Video

Video US, Saudi Arabia and UAE Hit Islamic State's Oil Revenue

The United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have bombed oil facilities operated by Islamic State militants in Syria. It was a truly collaborative effort, with the two Arab countries dropping the majority of the bombs. The 12 refineries targeted were estimated to generate as much as $2 million per day for the terrorist group. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb has the story.
Video

Video Russia's Food Sanctions Raise Price Worries, Hopes for Domestic Production

Russia retaliated against Western sanctions imposed for its actions in Ukraine by halting food imports from the West. The temporary import ban on food from Australia, the European Union, Norway and North America has Russian consumers concerned that they could face a sharp increase in food prices. But in an ironic twist, the restrictions aimed at the Kremlin have made Russia's domestic food producers hopeful this can boost their business. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid