State News

WNC Cherokee fish farmer goes solar, improves bottom line

Posted October 16

— John McCoy believes other types of farmers could replicate his success by also using sustainable methods.

A trout farmer who is a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is saving money by incorporating more sustainable practices into his business.

By converting Smoky Mountain Trout Farm's power supply to solar from electric and introducing insects to the fish's diet, McCoy estimated his annual savings will total about $6,400 on energy and food bills.

McCoy made the shifts during the spring.

He used a $6,000 grant from WNC Agricultural Options, a North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service program, and a loan for $25,000 from the Sequoyah Fund, said Heidi Cuny, principal of Cuny Communications in South Dakota.

The Sequoyah Fund is a Cherokee-based lending and business-training nonprofit organization. It loans to enrolled Cherokee Band members and residents of Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Swain counties.

"The way John combined funding sources demonstrates his ingenuity and resourcefulness," said Russ Seagle, Sequoyah Fund executive director, in a prepared statement. "We are happy that funds from our lending program could be combined with grant funds to make a significant bottom line impact in John's business."

Solar panel installation costs are a common barrier for business owners, Seagle said.

McCoy equipped his farm with solar fish feeders and solar "bug zappers" that enabled sun-powered food dispensing systems to work during the day and night, respectively, Cuny said.

McCoy, a veteran farmer of 45 years, said in a prepared statement that "in trout farming your profit margin is determined on the cost of fish food. With this set up, I'm able to offset that."

Cuny said McCoy is North Carolina's only Native American trout farmer. The state is the third-highest trout producer in the country, she said.

McCoy said the sustainable cost-savings model he's implemented may be replicated by chicken and pig farmers, too.

"The future is in healthy food that comes from waters that are clear and fields that are clean," McCoy said. "That's what we have in the Smoky Mountains."


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