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

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Russia’s Prosecutor General to Review Legality of Baltics Independence

Move, announced Tuesday, has alarmed Baltic States and strained even further their increasingly tense ties with Moscow More

US Urged to Keep Up Pressure on Cuba Rights

Communist government continues to hold dozens of political prisoners, tightly restricts freedom of expression, uses threats, intimidation to discourage critics, according to activist groups 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.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs