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Did you know there's a shrimp farm in Vermont

By Ike Bendavid 

CHARLOTTE, Vt. (WCAX) When you think of Vermont agriculture, dairy or maple probably come to mind. But our Ike Bendavid found out that a shrimp farm has popped up in Charlotte.

What once was a dairy barn, is filled with 80,000 shrimp in a landlocked state.

Reporter Ike Bendavid: What do people say when you tell them you are growing shrimp in Vermont?
John Brawley: They kind of go, 'Whaaaaa??'

Brawley spent most of his career growing oysters in Massachusetts. The former UVM student decided to come back to Vermont to be a shrimp farmer.

Ike Bendavid: It doesn't have that fishy smell.
John Brawley: No.
Ike Bendavid: Why is that?
John Brawley: Because they are all alive. If they were dead you would smell them.
Ike Bendavid: That's a good answer.

The tanks are filled with a few thousand gallons of saltwater which took months to balance with the bacteria to keep the shrimp alive. The brown color of the water comes from the animals' food.

"The gist is maintaining water quality, preventing diseases, making sure the water is survivable for the shrimp," Brawley explained.

So why grow shrimp in Vermont? Brawley says shrimp are usually imported long distances from exotic locations. He says his farm-raised shrimp have nothing added to them and will bring a local and fresh ingredient to menus around the state.

"These shrimp will be unprocessed, head-on, which is hard to find because the shelf life for head-on shrimp is relatively short," Brawley said.

Ike Bendavid: When you hear shrimp from Vermont, what goes through your mind?
Dana Pontbriand/Vermont Meat and Seafood Market: The initial reaction is like, 'What?' It sounds pretty odd.

But not odd enough to stop Pontbriand from putting it on the market. The owner of Vermont Meat and Seafood plans to put the Vermont shrimp on their seafood shelves next to fresh seafood from around the world. He says educating customers is key.

"If shrimp were never frozen, that really matters to people. And if you are helping out a local business with us and him, I mean, it's a pretty cool story," Pontbriand said.

Shoppers say what they look for is quality.

"I found being in Vermont things taste good. So, if the shrimp taste good just like in the Gulf or anywhere else, I would buy it definitely," said Matt Miller of Pennsylvania. 

Back at the farm, the big question is about taste and Brawley approves.

"It's more savory, more shrimpy flavor," he said. 

Some restaurants have featured the shrimp in events already this year but you can expect to see the shrimp on menus and in markets by the end of the year.


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