SPRING VALLEY, Minn. — Aaron TerBeest, of Spring Valley, runs his own farm, but his livestock is a little bit on the shrimpy side.

The 31-year-old man runs a shrimp farm called Kedron Valley Farm, and has been officially licensed since May 2017. This past season marked the first time that TerBeest was able to harvest his shrimp for direct-to-consumer and direct-to-restaurant sales.

"There's always some risk that comes with any sort of farming operation," the 2004 Kingsland graduate told the Agri News . "Aquaculture is no exception."

TerBeest graduated from Winona State University in 2009 with a psychology degree. However, it was the background through his stepfather's dairy farm that got him gradually interested in pursuing agriculture.

This career move was something he never thought of for himself.

"No, never," he said with a laugh. "Never crossed my mind. I've never been to the ocean myself. I've got a background in arborist with orchards and things like that. This kind of popped up. I thought to myself 'Well, that's kind of interesting.' It was working well for some other small producers. ... This never would've crossed my mind."

But how did TerBeest get into shrimp farming? It all started with reading an article on small-scale shrimp farms that began popping up throughout the Midwest. Then slowly, he began taking classes and attended seminars to learn about the feasibility and diversifying farming.

While Minnesota is known for dairy and harvesting corn and soybeans, shrimp may not necessarily register as a potential livestock in the area, let alone Spring Valley. TerBeest said he's been amused by the response he receives from customers at the Rochester Farmers Market.

"People see the 'fresh shrimp sign,' they ask 'What truck did the shrimp come out of?'" he said. "We then tell them, 'No we've come from 25 miles away in Spring Valley.' They kinda do a double take, and then listen to how we produce our food."

TerBeest usually orders his shrimp eggs from a hatchery based in California. His main type of shrimp that's harvested in Spring Valley is called Pacific white shrimp, more commonly known as "white-leg shrimp."

"They're usually the size of an eyelash, when we get them," he added.

The farm uses a four-phase system with a couple different sized tanks stacked on top of each other, along with a nursery at the very top. When TerBeest receives the shrimp from the hatchery — around 20,000 — in shipments. Usually, 70 percent of the shrimp survive during a four-month production cycle.

For TerBeest, one of the most important aspects of raising shrimp is to feed them high-quality shrimp feed without antibiotics or other chemicals. He also said that the farm reuses its water to be more environmentally conscious.

The farm could see anywhere between 60,000 to 70,000 live shrimp ready to be harvested out of the more than 30,000 gallons of salt water, and be taken to be sold directly to their consumers or restaurants around the Rochester area.

"We just started marketing to restaurants like Forager," TerBeest said. "They're really big on local foods and local producers. A lot of places were really excited to try some fresh, local shrimp and we've been at the farmer's market to sell directly to the consumer. We've just got a deal with People's Food Co-op downtown."

Currently with the major construction that's happening at a local road, TerBeest is mostly delivering the shrimp to his clients if orders are placed over the phone. His shrimp had repeat customers and positive feedback.

It goes to show, the smallest critters often have the biggest flavor.

"They can't believe the difference in taste and texture from fresh shrimp versus the peeled and deveined pre-thawed ones at the typical grocery store," he said. "Chefs love fresh ones. ... People can see what they're missing out on from something close by."

An AP Member Exchange shared by Agri News.