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Charlotte's Nordic Farms Hosts a Shrimping Operation

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John Brawley of Sweet Sound Aquaculture in a shrimp tank - COURTESY OF JOHN BRAWLEY
  • Courtesy Of John Brawley
  • John Brawley of Sweet Sound Aquaculture in a shrimp tank

Over the past year, Nordic Farms in Charlotte has transformed itself from a traditional dairy into the home of varied agriculture enterprises under the stewardship of new co-owner Andrew Peterson of Peterson Quality Malt. Now the operation includes an endeavor new to Vermont: shrimp farming.

John Brawley, a marine ecologist and former oyster farmer, is developing Sweet Sound Aquaculture in Nordic Farms' old calf barn. The operation is cultivating a species of jumbo shrimp called Pacific white leg. Brawley expects area restaurants to start serving his locally raised shrimp by midsummer, and he plans future retail sales at farmers markets and grocery stores.

"There's an interest in local shrimp production," said Brawley, 53, who lives in North Ferrisburgh. "They grow fast. They grow well in these indoor dairy barn systems."

With his previous business, Sweet Sound Oysters, based in Duxbury, Mass., Brawley sold oysters and hosted oyster pop-ups in Vermont. "I wanted to stay in aquaculture and keep doing that," he said.

He is currently purchasing baby shrimp — about a quarter-inch long — from hatcheries in Florida and Texas. Batches of 30,000 to 40,000 shrimp are shipped to Vermont overnight in coolers of water and oxygen.

After about a month in nurseries at the Charlotte farm, Brawley moves the shrimp to larger tanks, where they grow for about three months. Each tank holds 4,000 gallons of salt water, kept at about 82 degrees Fahrenheit with air circulating through the system.

The farm will harvest about 200 pounds of shrimp a week — or 4,000 shrimp — at an optimal size of 20 shrimp per pound, Brawley said. His plans for Sweet Sound Aquaculture include building a hatchery in Charlotte and increasing the number of tanks at the farm to double production within a year.

Brawley is part of a growing agriculture community at Nordic Farms. In addition to Peterson Quality Malts' grain operation, the farm has a livestock component that's raising sheep for Juniper at Burlington's Hotel Vermont. Turkeys are coming, and market gardens will grow produce for Juniper and Bleu Northeast Seafood, according to Peterson.

In addition, Slowfire Bakery will be moving from Jeffersonville to Nordic Farms this summer, where they are building a bakery in the main barn, said Slowfire owner Scott Medellin.

"We want to give people an opportunity to see what they can make happen for 21st-century agriculture in Vermont," Peterson said. "Everybody's been 100 percent supportive as we see the agriculture landscape changing."

The original print version of this article was headlined "Northern Shellfish"