Friday, October 05, 2007

Raising Shrimp in the Cornbelt?

My wife and I made our annual trek to the Stan and Kay Zumbahlen Dairy Farm in rural Newton, IL for their shrimp harvest this past weekend. The Zumbahlen’s have been raising shrimp for the past half dozen years with nieces, nephews and grandkids all helping with the draining of the ponds and sorting of the shrimp.

The young shrimp come from the Gulf Coast where they are acclimated from salt water to freshwater. Around June 1st of each year the Zumbahlen’s put about 1,100 of these baby shrimp into their larger pond, which I estimated was about 2 acres in size. For the next 4 months they feed and aerate the pond, draining it each fall. They sell the shrimp for $8/pound, selling all they produce by the end of the day and without a great deal of advertising.

This is one of the many different types of unique “crops” that can be harvested in our rural areas. It continues to puzzle me of why more farmers don’t look at some of these alternatives to help diversify their revenue away from what is becoming too much of a monoculture or duopoly of crops.

Another observation from visiting Shrimp Day on the Zumbahlen’s Dairy Farm is that farmers need to learn to become not just good at production but also good at marketing. Revenue could be significantly enhanced by turning a production day of draining the pond into a festival with such things as a shrimp boil, shrimp races, etc.

These niche ag products are rapidly developing around the country. I just wish that they would happen more quickly.