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Farmer Hooks His Fortunes On Freshwater Prawns

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JACKSON, N.C. — Throwing a casting net is very different from growing cotton to Tom Hollowell. It's his first year at freshwater shrimp farming.

"I'm very nervous," Hollowell said.

Hollowell built a two-acre pond and stocked it with 25,000 prawns about the size of mosquitoes. Now, almost four months later, he said he believes he's on the right track.

He's also getting free advice from North Carolina State University's Agriculture Extension Service. That has upset some shrimpers along the North Carolina coast, who have said they haven't received any assistance.

Hollowell pointed out there are only eight prawn farms in North Carolina, compared with huge ocean harvests. He said there's also a difference to the consumer.

"Prawns are a different animal than a marine-type shrimp," said Hollowell. "They don't have that marine smell about them. So they have more of a lobster-type texture and they are sweeter in taste."

Whether it's cattle or cotton, farmers like to watch the progress of their product from time to time. But in prawn production, Hollowell never sees a single shrimp until harvest day.

"Even with the catfishing industry, when they feed the fish they come up to the surface," he said. "At least they see something happening. You've got to have a great big leap of faith."

With that big leap of faith comes a big profit -- about $8 a pound. Hollowell's farm will harvest 1,200 to 1,500 pounds of freshwater shrimp on Saturday. They are scheduled to go on sale at about 12:30 p.m.


Fred Taylor, Reporter
Keith Baker, Photographer
Dana Franks, Web Editor

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