Wheatfield family raising saltwater shrimp for local food experience.
The right amount of sweet is essential at Scott and Leslie Tysen’s saltwater shrimp farm, J.T. Shrimp in Wheatfield.
“We make our own sugar and add just enough to make the shrimp sweet. It’s so delicious,” Leslie says. “There are no hormones. We add baking soda for alkalinity and sugar for the carbon ratio.”
The shrimp are raised without the use of antibiotics or chemicals in a recirculating water aquaculture system in an enclosed shrimp barn. The zero-exchange aerobic heterotrophic system includes running the water through several filters to take out unwanted bacteria, algae and viruses. The water is recirculated and does not generate wastewater.
The system creates water as close as possible to a shrimp’s natural habitat, Leslie says. “The shrimp are fresh and swimming around until you order them. We go and scoop them out. We go out every morning to test the water and check on the shrimp.”
Shrimp are bottom dwellers and ingest mud in the ocean. Because the Tysen’s shrimp are raised in a tank, they don’t have a mud vein to remove.
Scott and Leslie launched J.T. Shrimp–named for their daughter Jillian–in the fall of 2013 to enhance their small cattle and grain farm operation. By the end of January 2014, the Tysens had their first delivery of shrimp.
“We researched niche markets for quite some time,” Leslie says. “My husband and his dad farm the land but it’s not enough to live off of. We’re both working other jobs as we try to get this going. I clean houses and he does construction and farming.
“It’s been a big roller coaster of a ride, but we are not giving up.”
Leslie and daughter Jillian added a touch of whimsy with the artwork that adorns the office walls. The couple also has a son, Alex.
Beyond walk-in customers, they provide their fresh product to area restaurants, including Valley Kitchen and Bar and The Market in Valparaiso, and Corndance Tavern in Mishawaka. “Eventually, we would like to be able to expand and hook up with more good restaurants,” Leslie says.
During the farmers’ market season, Scott is often at the South Bend or DeMotte farmers markets. “People come by the shop in our barn to buy them, and we provide shrimp to festivals and events, including to County Line Orchard (for the Farm to Table festival),” Leslie says.
The Tysens also open up their shrimp farm to the public for individual, technical, school and group tours. The behind-the-scenes look allows community members to see how the shrimp are raised on a farm.
The business was recently inducted into the Society of Innovators of Northwest Indiana at Ivy Tech Community College, joining the largest class in the society’s 12-year history. For the Tysens, it’s fresh and family that are the cornerstones of their distinctive recipe.
“I’ve grown up on shrimp my whole life,” Leslie says. “I would go to Florida with my grandpa and go out on the boats. It’s nice to be able to work together [with my family] and provide a good fresh product to the community.”