Rainbow trout raised on a farm in the Cortland area winds up on customers’ plates at high-end restaurants in area major cities.
The sod from a nearby farm could be spotted while driving along Interstate 65 near Indianapolis and on golf courses and other sites in French Lick.
This year’s agribusiness farm tour, sponsored by the Greater Seymour Chamber of Commerce, recently made stops at White Creek Farms of Indiana LLC and Myers Sod Farm LLC.
White Creek Farms of Indiana LLC
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After working in the pharmaceutical industry for a number of years, Mike Searcy continued his education in packaging dynamics and quality management.He worked as the packaging director for Opit-Med CR Labs in Seymour as a startup company in the late 1990s.
Then in 2012, he came out of retirement and started his own farm-raised rainbow trout business after visiting Freshwater Farms of Ohio.
“I was looking for something to do in retirement, and I was looking around there and thought, ‘This looks like something I would enjoy doing,’ so I started looking into fish farming,” he said.
When looking into the different types of fish he could raise, Searcy said trout was his original thought. He tested batches of different species, but he always came back to trout because it’s one of the tougher species, he said.
Searcy said he didn’t know anything about aquaculture, but he became educated so he could start his own business.
Water is pumped from wells and goes through multimedia filtration with no added chemicals. Searcy uses a recirculating aquaculture system, which involves running water through mechanical and biological filtration and returning it back into the tanks.
There also is a nitrification process, which is the biological oxidation of ammonia or ammonium to nitrite followed by the oxidation of the nitrite to nitrate. Nitrites can kill fish in high levels, Searcy said.
”The water supply to our nursery is cleaner and better filtered than the water that we drink at our house,” he said.
He has 17 tanks — 16 used to grow out the fish and one to purge the fish ready for market. The smaller tanks each have 4,000 to 5,000 trout, while the larger tanks are used for growing out the juveniles and will reduce in number as the fish get larger.
Eggs are brought in every eight weeks from Washington state to be hatched out. They are all female because with rainbow trout, they are faster growing than males, Searcy said.
After eight weeks, those fish are moved to the next size tank and split up according to how fast they are growing.
Once the fish reach an optimal weight of 1½ to 2 pounds, they are purged for three days. They are then put on ice, placed in a cooler and sent to Bluefin Seafoods in Louisville, Kentucky, for processing and smoking. That’s done once a week, typically on Tuesday.
“On Wednesday, they are processing them, and by Thursday, they are gone,” he said. “They go that quick. There is such a demand for our product. The owner of the company has talked to me wanting us to double our operation, if not triple. It’s local, sustainable and it’s a good product, and that’s what people are looking for nowadays.”
Soon, Searcy plans to begin doing some processing himself. The front part of his building is about 90 percent completed.
“We will be able to take our fish out of the tanks, put them into the purge tank, take them off of feed, put them on just fresh water for three days, then fillet them and at some point start smoking the fillets,” he said. “Then we would be able to send you home with something you could fix for supper.”
When that is in operation, Searcy said he plans to develop a market to include local restaurants and small ethnic grocers. He also may try selling his product at the Seymour Area Farmers Market.
“The restaurants would more than likely be nonfranchised and would be considered high-end,” he said. “Our trout will have to find their place in the local community as they have in the larger cities.”
Myers Sod Farm LLC
Not growing up on a farm but having friends who did, Adam Myers headed to Purdue University to study agriculture engineering. But he quickly discovered that wasn’t for him.He then saw a crew from Lafayette laying sod and found that to be interesting.
“I talked to some landscapers, and they said, ‘Well, we’d love to have some sod, but we have to drive to Indy or Louisville to get it,’” Myers said.
In 2003, during his sophomore year of college, he took a shot at starting his own business and planted about 20 acres.
The next summer, he said he pretty much sold everything he had, so he doubled his acres.
“I pretty much doubled everything until about 2008 when the housing market slowed way down,” he said. “That’s when we got into tomatoes and kind of bumped up some of our row crops.”
Today, Myers Sod Farm consists of nearly 350 acres of sod and 100 acres of tomatoes in Jackson County. He also has a farm in Clark County operating under Hoosier Turf LLC that has about 350 acres of sod.
He said there are nearly 20 sod farms in Indiana, and acre-wise, his is in the top five.
The sod products include turf-type tall fescue, used for lawns, and Kentucky bluegrass, which is used for golf courses and athletic fields.
Myers said a majority of the sod fields are seeded in the fall. Tillage tools are required to prepare the land for seeding, and a seeder goes over the field a couple of times.
Between both farms, four 36-foot-wide mowers are used to mow the sod every five days in the spring.
The fescue has roots that go straight down, so when it’s time to harvest, Myers’ crew uses a machine to net the sod together to give it some strength so it doesn’t fall apart. Myers has a new implement that automatically puts staples in to help hold the netting, and a GPS device steers the tractor automatically so there’s not much overlap and wasting cost in netting.
Myers also has a Trebro to use when harvesting sod. That machine places rolls of sod onto pallets.
Another device is used to install the rolls of sod. Myers has a full-time crew that does sod installation, seeding and grading.
Chicken manure from nearby Rose Acre Farms is used to help replenish the organic matter that is removed when a sod crop is harvested.
Myers said 90 percent of his sod can be found in the area from the northern suburbs of Indianapolis to the south side of Louisville. He also has shipped to surrounding states and has even sent specialty projects to West Virginia.
Most of the sod is used for residential and highway road projects. Spring is residential season, while fall is mainly road construction, he said.
In Jackson County, Myers’ sod can be found at the Weslin Estates subdivision and some parts of Shadowood Golf Course, both in Seymour. One of his biggest projects came several years ago when he shipped more than 100 semitrailer loads to French Lick for the development of golf courses and other projects.
In 2009, Myers became a contract grower for Red Gold Tomatoes. The Elwood-based company has about 50 growers with nearly 13,000 acres in Indiana, Ohio and Michigan. Myers is the smallest grower at 100 acres.
The tomatoes are mechanically harvested and hand sorted. An electronic color sorter also is used to kick out green tomatoes.
Myers said the tomato harvest finished up about a week ago. He also has some row crops.
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White Creek Farms of Indiana LLC is at 7808 N. County Road 240E near Cortland. It is owned by Mike Searcy. For information, visit wcfi.net, find the business on Facebook or call 812-569-3034.
Myers Sod Farm LLC is at 1519 E. County Road 600N near Cortland. It is owned by Adam Myers. For information, visit myerssodfarm.com, find the business on Facebook or call 812-524-8873.