Country View: Dave Smith – Freshwater Farms – Urbana, OH
We love hearing from our listeners, and sharing their stories with you. Today we're featuring Dave Smith, who turned an old farm into a successful fish hatchery.
Photo courtesy of Urbana Freshwater Farms
Radio interview source: Dave Smith, Owner, Freshwater Farms of Ohio
Before Dave Smith could barely walk, he was holding a fishing pole. This life-long interest led him to develop the largest indoor fish hatchery in Ohio.
Dave went to college to learn marine biology and aquaculture. His dream of operating a fish farm came true when he found a five-acre, bankrupt chicken farm. The fish are raised in tanks in the same barns that housed the chickens.
"Our main fish we're raising is rainbow trout," he says. "We really got into that early on because it was the most commonly raised thing, and you could get fingerlings to stock ponds. It gives us an option of being year-round. These old chicken barns, we converted them to be solar heated. We're not shutting down in the wintertime, we just keep right on going."
The Smiths raise about 20 different species of fish and freshwater shrimp. In addition to the indoor facilities, there are some outdoor tanks, and a few ponds in another location. Dave's goal is to have an economical operation, and he teaches others how to do the same through seminars, webinars, and consulting.
For many years, the family also sold wholesale fish to restaurants. But people kept coming to the Smiths asking to buy fish directly, so they've transitioned to selling 100-percent of it off the farm.
"Our farm has become a public attraction," says Dave. "We have a store here at the farm where a FDA-inspected seafood processor will make smoked trout, all kinds of value-added things. So, we're retailing now at the farm, and turning away restaurants almost every week. There's a lot of demand out there and not enough producers for it."
The Smiths also started the Ohio Fish and Shrimp Festival, which is held every September. It includes tours of their facilities, a sturgeon petting zoo, and the chance to feed trout.
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