For over a decade, Chef Mike McCarty has diligently searched for responsibly-sourced ingredients. He relies heavily on partnerships with local farms and producers. Investing in community resources has obvious economic advantages, but also limits the impacts of infrastructure and shipping.
As a seafood restaurant situated hours from the nearest shoreline, it may be hard to imagine how much we are able to source locally. Thankfully, Western North Carolina is fortunate enough to be home to an abundance of local producers, including Sunburst Trout Farm. This family-owned and operated farm specializes in innovative aquaculture practices, and delivers fresh rainbow trout to tables all around the Asheville area.
Our host, Wes Eason, grew up on the farm, which was founded by his grandfather, Dick Jennings, in 1948. Then called the Cashiers Valley Trout Farm, it was the first commercial trout farm in the South.
These days, the family and their operation have expanded to three farms and a large processing facility; and their product can be found in markets and restaurants up and down the East Coast. Wes was nice enough to show us around so we could learn how the trout migrate from the farm to our tables.
A few facts we learned about Sunburst Trout Farm:
First, a lot of research has gone into the design and function of the farm. Nestled right at the bottom of Lake Logan, the trout benefit from an accelerated and oxygenated water flow, in a pollution-free environment.
Due to the nature of the farm’s design, the trout we serve grow up to be happy and healthy. Wes and his family take pride in the fish they grow.
We also learned how and why North Carolina trout taste differently from those harvested in other regions. The rate of growth is slowed by our warmer atmosphere, resulting in a robust flavor that isn’t available in cooler climates.
This barely scratches the surface of all we learned about how to grow and how to harvest trout. Fortunately, we compiled a little video of our visit. Head over to our YouTube to meet Wes Eason, and see Chef Mike in his most recent grand performance.