Providing seafood for the Cville CSF is the Virginia Natural Fish Company (VNFC), an organization sponsored and assembled by the Virginia Aqua-Farmers Network (VAN). The Virginia Aqua-Farmers Network is a cooperative of small-scale aquaculture farms in southern Virginia, the majority of which were previously used in tobacco farming.
The network is devoted to providing sustainably harvested, natural seafood grown in freshwater ponds without the use of chemicals or hormones and without detriment to the surrounding environment. VAN currently grows rainbow trout, catfish, and prawns/shrimp, and is expecting to sell hybrid striped bass in 2013. All products are frozen and professionally packaged for delivery.
The Virginia Aqua-Farmers Network was formed by Dr. Lynn Blackwood, who practices as a child psychologist in addition to raising primarily catfish and rainbow trout. A father of five originally from North Carolina, Dr. Blackwood studied at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill and served in the Navy before moving to Virginia. He began exploring aquaculture following learning of a series of studies that addressed the high pollution levels in surrounding freshwater streams and lakes, and focused on raising fish in an environmentally-responsible manner that would provide safe and healthy seafood. As a person who had visited his grandmother’s farm as a child and had always loved being outdoors, Dr. Blackwood converted a former tobacco farm into one devoted to aquaculture in 1998, where he also raises cows and grows hay.
Dr. Blackwood currently raises fish in four ponds fed by underground springs, and maintains consistent aeration in the ponds to help ensure high quality water for the fish. All areas surrounding the ponds are free of pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals and artificial fertilizers that might drain into the ponds, and no additives, hormones, or antibiotics are used in raising the fish. Further, Dr. Blackwood maintains an appropriate density of fish to ensure that waste in the ponds does not become an issue, and continues to use the waste generated at the processing facility for the fish on his garden. For more information on the feed used to raise the fish, please follow this link.