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'It all breaks down into basic farming': Montana farmer grows saltwater shrimp

Posted at 12:34 PM, May 04, 2023

CHARLO - Thinking that you need to get all the way from Montana to the Pacific Coast to get fresh saltwater shrimp?

Well, there's no need to go further than Mission Valley Shrimp in Charlo.

“When you can raise a shrimp 500 miles from the ocean that people who grew up eating seafood the way I grew up eating beef say it’s one of the best shrimp they’ve ever eaten, you know you’re onto something,” shares Mission Valley Shrimp owner Jim Vaughan.

Vaughan's interest in shrimp farming spawned from a trip his brother took to Papua New Guinea where he discovered that people there not only raise shrimp in ponds but they also have large-scale indoor operations.

Now he runs his own farm all by himself and raises 10,000 shrimp a month that come in tiny from Florida.


“It’s, it amazes me how it all breaks down into basic farming though… into nitrites, nitrates, calcium, pHs, it all kind of works no matter what you’re raising. Densities, that’s my big thing right now, is figuring out the numbers I can grow," Vaughan explains.

Vaughan says that the density in a growing tank dictates how large the will shrimp get. He grows a variety of sizes by controlling the entire process.

“They’re clean, they’re fresh, and I just think any of your seafood, freezing it takes so much out of the overall mix of it. And my shrimp are sweeter and I attribute the sweetness to me controlling the feed and I know exactly what they’re getting. And then the texture I attribute to the fact that in the ocean or in the wild, the shrimp 99% of their life is spent on the bottom, well I raise my shrimp at a high density so I would guess at any given time 50 to 70% of them are swimming and when they’re swimming they’re just making texture.”

Vaughan says that 99% of his customers do not even de-vein his shrimp — they're that clean.

Jim Vaughan shows off some of his shrimp

He plans to sell 20-to-a-pound and 30-to-a-pound shrimp at the Clark Fork River Market in Missoula when it opens on Saturday in downtown Missoula.

“Everybody says it’s the best market in Western Montana so I’m just interested and excited to see the whole setup,” said Vaughan.

This will be Vaughan's first time at the market and he wants to make sure he’s bringing the right amount of shrimp for interested customers.

“I would appreciate it if people could give me a call, email me, Facebook, or message me and give me an idea of how many to bring. I’m not one of them guys that can bring 'em home and freeze 'em or put 'em back in the freezer I gotta be pretty close on what I take.”

Vaughan doesn’t freeze his shrimp or alter them at all. They are fresh from his farm straight to your table.

If you are interested in getting Montana-made shrimp at the Clark Fork River Market reach out to Jim at 406-876-4546.