Meet The Farmers

Lynn and Lori Blackwood, Blackwood Farm

The Blackwood Farm is 225 acres of timber, pasture, and aqua-farming ponds located in rural Southside Virginia, founded in 1996. The Blackwoods have been raising channel catfish year-round in pond and cage culture systems since 2000. They also raise rainbow trout from mid-fall until the April harvest each year. The catfish are sold live as pond stockers ranging in size from ¼ pound to large brood stock. They also harvest the catfish at 1½ to 2 lbs. to be filleted and sold fresh or frozen through the Virginia Natural Fish Company brand. T he rainbow trout are all dressed in a commercial kitchen, vacuum-sealed and sold fresh or frozen. All fish are constantly aerated and raised in spring-fed ponds with no use of chemicals at any point in the production process. Only the highest quality protein feeds are given to the fish, producing the “all natural” products of which Dr. Blackwood and his wife Lori are exceptionally proud. The plans to install a catfish hatchery on the farm are currently underway.

Dr. Blackwood is a clinical child psychologist in Farmville, VA and Lori is an associate museum director, also in Farmville. They are the proud parents of five wonderful children and one grandchild. Dr. Blackwood is also President of the Virginia Aquaculture Association, Chairman of the Virginia Aquafarmers Network, a member of the Governor’s Aquaculture Advisory Board and the Farm Bureau’s State Aquaculture Advisory Committee. He also sits as one of two Virginia Industry members on the Southern Regional Aquaculture Council.

John Hofmeyer, Tomahund Farm

Tomahund Farm is where John and his wife, Tracy, and daughter, Maddy, reside and practice aquaculture in a few of the ponds. The farm was purchased by his grandfather in 1943 and expanded to 950 acres of grain, 100 head of beef cattle, hogs, timber, etc. Over the years, times changed and John’s grandfather turned the farm over to his dad and uncle. John joined on with farm work in 1990 and helped run the cattle operation, 700 acres of grain, hay, and a grainery for sellng certified Virginia seed. Aquaculture ponds were created when gravel and sand was removed for construction materials, leaving usable ponds. The water is a blue green color from spring fed surface water. Beginning in 2002, John has raised hybrid striped bass. Last year, he added rainbow trout cages and doubled production this year. John has had success with both species.

After serving on the Virginia Aquaculture Association committee for
nearly 10 years, John was recently elected president. He is also vice chair of the Virginia Aqua-Farmers Network (VAN), a co-op made up of 20 farmers in southern Virginia. They work together to raise their products (catfish, hybrid striped bass, freshwater prawns, rainbow trout) and market them to the public on a retail basis. John has been a director on the local Farm Bureau board for 20 years and sits on the Virginia Farm Bureau aquaculture advisory committee. He is active in his church as a deacon. John opened a boat repair shop in 2006 and is expanding into a larger facility on Route 5 on the farm. Tomahund Farm is located on the Chicahominy and James Rivers and is a prime location for his boat business.

Eddie and Leilani Cochran, Strawberry Creek Shrimp Farm

Strawberry Creek Shrimp Farm, located in Chatham, Virginia, was established in 2006 by Eddie and Leilani Cochran. The farm is Virginia’s first freshwater prawn nursery, which provides juvenile prawn to farmers looking to diversify their farms. By providing a local source of juveniles, Virginia prawn farmers get animals that are acclimated to Virginia ponds and have fewer losses from being transported long distances.

Eddie and Leilani Cochran have struggled with numerous setbacks, including a fire in 2010 that destroyed part of their operation. “But we are back up and looking forward to 2011,” says Eddie, whose goal is to help local farmers be successful in raising freshwater prawn.