Raising Seafood in the Midwest! What?

“Indiana could become the shrimp capitol of the world”, according to the  Brown family, who raises shrimp in a land-locked farm.  No!  That can’t be!  Can it?

My family moved to the flatlands of southern Indiana from the mountain state of West Virginia when I was a teenager. Neither of these states is situated near the coast for easy access to all kinds of seafood, with the exception of lake fishing.  In the Midwest, corn and soybeans are common crops.  Is Indiana, in the heartland of America, on the way to becoming a major center for farming shrimp? Really?

I didn’t know about the rich variety of seafood available when I was young, as there was a limited selection of seafood available at the local Kroger store  in Madison, Indiana where Mom did her weekly shopping. (Changes in distribution and frozen foods have increased seafood choices in the Midwest from the years when I was growing up.)

 I learned to cook a variety of foods from my mother who was a good cook.  Mom prepared a full sit down dinner every night, and our family of six ate together in the dining room. Our plates were stacked in front of Dad who sat at one end of the table, and he dished the plates with food and passed them around.

Our meat entrees included pork chops, roast cooked with vegetables, hamburgers, chicken and turkey.  Mom bought a lot of ground beef each week and we helped her patty them out with a wooden hamburger smasher.  My younger brothers were picky eaters and hamburgers were one thing they would eat without complaining. We had potatoes every meal – usually baked potatoes, mashed potatoes with gravy, or homemade French fries.

We also enjoyed mom’s desserts – pies, baked custard and ice cream most often, and she always baked each of us a birthday cake for our special day.

Our culinary fare in seafood was limited.  We ate our share of tuna salad sandwiches, baked salmon loaf made from canned salmon, and as children we seemed to like the fish sticks that mom heated from a frozen food package.  What did we know?  We were kids.  Grouper? tilapia? Never heard of them or knew what fresh salmon or tuna filets looked like .   Lobster? Never saw a live one up close.  We would have likely said “yuck” when we saw the insect-appearing critter anyway, just like we refused to eat frog legs someone gave our family.

When I moved to Florida, and later North Carolina, as an adult, my love affair with all things seafood began, and I learned to prepare a variety of delicious foods for my family that were harvested from the sea.  How wonderful that they are more healthy than the heavy dose of red meats I grew up eating each week.  In her senior years, my mother enjoyed new seafood dishes in my home that she had not tasted before.CIMG3146

Tonight, I prepared a simple dinner with baked tilapia… seasoned with salt, pepper and lemon, rolled in panko crumbs, baked and topped with sour cream/dill sauce.  We also had baked sweet potatoes, grillled zuchinni and cooked cinnamon apples. Comfort food on a cool September day.

New technology is creating seafood farming options for land-locked areas of the country. The Brown aquaculture farm, one of 11 shrimp farms in Indiana, is becoming a leader in the inland farming of shrimp in the U.S, and is one of 11 shrimp farms in Indiana, seven added just in the past four years. The Browns who previously raised hogs before switching to shrimp, hope to expand to tank farming of oysters, talapia and crawfish (Popular Science, 2015).

 An article in the October Popular Science (2015), entitled “The Midwest is Our New Ocean”, describes the low-tech methods developed by Texas A & M that is enabling land-locked areas to enter seafood farming. Basically, the tanks don’t need to be filtered, as bacteria held in a liquid suspension keep the tanks clean and with no need for antibiotics. The article states that this sustainable method of in-land farming may be critical for our future, as our “ocean is dying unless we change our ways”.

It’s exciting news that research has devised a way for in-land farming of seafood in cost-effective and healthy ways in the Midwest, with other possibilities on the horizon.  This new technology creates jobs and provides healthy food for a growing population.

But, I can’t be so cavalier about the oceans becoming toxic. It will not be so simple to have any quality of life on the planet if we destroy our oceans, even if we increase the farming of seafood in the Midwest. Reducing over-fishing and curbing pollution remain huge environmental concerns.

Sue Marquis Bishop, 2015

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