Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Sunburst Trout Farm Tour

Last Wednesday, as part of the Business Side of Agritourism Workshop, we held a pre-conference tour of Sunburst Trout Farm in Canton, NC.

It was awesome!

Chris was our tour guide. He has been with Sunburst since 1992 and started by showing us the processing facility. It takes only 55 minutes from pond to cooler. You can read about the entire process here. Below is Chris showing us the de-heading machine.

At Sunburst, they can process up to 6,000 lbs. of trout/day during the very busy season. They bring the fish in large buckets from the raceways and transport them the very short ride in the bed of a pick up. After they are de-headed, they go through the filleting machine (Below).

The ideal size of a trout that is harvested results in two 8 oz fillets. The filet machine also takes care of most of the bones, even the pin bones. The few remaining bones are processed by hand.

The scales are removed with some really cool-looking gloves (Below). They remind me of the late, great Michael Jackson (who, coincidently there is a picture of in the Sunburst Trout main office).

Next we toured the commercial kitchen. Sunburst Trout makes some unique value-added products like delicious trout dip, cavier, smoked trout and trout sausage.

We got to meet, Charlie (Below), the inventor of the trout jerky and award-winning smoked tomato jam.

Charlie does research and development at the trout farm and we are all very grateful for his delicious trout jerky (Below). It may look funny, but man is it tasty! I had more than my share.

Then, we were out to the raceways to enjoy the beautiful day and to see the rest of the operation.

Sunburst Trout purchases their fish from local producers and tranport them in this awesome truck. Chris let us know that this has saved them time (and their backs) from manually loading heavy buckets of fish a few years ago.

The trout farm was established in 1948! The raceways are fed with water from the pristine mountain water directly from the protected Shining Rock Wilderness area in Pisgah National Forest.

We even got to go out on the raceways and feed the trout.

The trout get so excited when you feed them.

I wish my camera could have captured how beautiful these rainbow trout are!

Finally, we got to see where all of the fish remains end up. Sunburst has a forced-air composting system that is specifically used for animals. This system speeds up the processing by 2/3 with no turning needed! Check out this private website on forced-air systems. (In no way am I advertising, but they do a great job explaining the process.)

The result is a great compost that Sunburst sells to local gardeners and farmers. We didn't get very close because, according to Chris, the smell stays on your shoes for 6 months.

As you can tell, the tour was awesome. The Sunburst Trout Farm does an amazing job growing fish and making their products. Ask for them in a grocery store near you!

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