Thursday, March 27, 2014

Meet the Reinkes from Big Barn Shrimp Farm

Jerry Reinke had been a funeral director for 25 years before deciding to change professions.  Jerry worked in funeral homes in Ft. Wayne and Flora and owned Reinke Funeral Home in Flora with his dad for the last 20 years.  When his dad passed away in 2010, he lost a “fire for the funeral business.”  “It was something I had always done with my dad and without him there, it just wasn’t fun anymore,” Jerry said.  He and his wife Cindy researched shrimp farming for nearly two years before opening their own shrimp farm.  Big Barn Shrimp Farm in Flora opened for business in October of 2013.

The Reinkes don’t have a nursery up and running yet so their process is a little different than most.  Shrimp babies are shipped from Miami, Florida to another shrimp farm in Fowler, Indiana.  They will raise them in grow-out tanks for the next three months.  “Our grow-out tanks are simply 18’ above ground swimming pools.  So after 4-5 months the shrimp are to the size we like to sell them,” Jerry explains.  “We usually try for a 20-25 count shrimp.  That means there are 20-25 whole shrimp to a pound.  This is for head-on live shrimp.”

Big Barn Shrimp Farm is currently producing around 65 pounds a week.  They have eight pools of shrimp in their building right now, but by the end of April they should be to their first goal of 16 pools of shrimp.  “By then the water should be conditioned to the point that we anticipate being able to harvest around 200 pounds of shrimp a week.  With only eight pools, we have to spread the harvest for each pool over two weeks, but with 16 pools we will have a pool a week to harvest.  When we reach 16 pools, we will be the single largest shrimp farm in the state!”

The public is able to purchase shrimp directly from Big Barn Shrimp Farm.  “As a matter of fact,” Jerry explains, “that is the only way we sell currently.  So many people are amazed that we don’t sell to any restaurants or groceries yet.  I would rather have them come right here to our farm to buy our shrimp!  I’m pretty proud of our building and business and love showing it off.  I would be willing to bet that 3 out of the 4 days we are open, someone stops by the farm simply for a tour.  It sounds interesting so they want to see what’s going on!  I get a kick out of telling people that in 25 years of working at a funeral home, never once did I have a family drive up, walk in, and ask for a tour of the place!”

The shrimp are sold live.  “Usually when a customer buys their shrimp, I scoop them up as the customer orders them.  So you simply can’t get fresher than that!  I put the shrimp in a bag and put that bag in a bag of ice.  That slows the shrimp’s metabolism down and kills them quicker than simply putting them in only one bag.”

The Reinkes have three children, Abigail, Hannah and Ethan.  Big Barn Shrimp Farm is located at 315 South Sycamore Street, Flora, Indiana.  They are open Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday 10-5 and Saturday 9-12.  Look for them on Facebook by searching Big Barn Shrimp Farm.

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