Mr. Bunkycooks has Gone Fishin’ at the Sunburst Trout Farm in Canton, North Carolina!
This is another post in the On the Road with Bunkycooks series. This time we traveled to a trout farm in the Shining Rock Wilderness Area in Western North Carolina!
I arranged for the Bunkycooks to meet with Sally Eason, who is the CEO and second generation of Sunburst Trout Company. I just had to go and see where this fabulous trout was coming from that we had on several occasions at Madison’s restaurant in Highlands, North Carolina and at Canyon Kitchen in Cashiers, North Carolina. Mr. Bunkycooks is also now totally addicted to Sunburst’s smoked trout after having it at The Grove Park Inn in Asheville.
Well, I went to round up Mr. Bunkycooks to head off to Sunburst Trout and obviously, there was a bit of a misunderstanding because I found him in his waders! I guess when I said “trout farm” he thought we were going fishing!
So, in order to solve the problem and get this urge to go fishing out of the way, we quickly headed off to one of the nearby lakes and went fishing! Since we were in a hurry, we couldn’t really do much serious fishing, so this is what Mr. Bunkycooks caught! Since this fish wasn’t going to even be enough for an appetizer, we released the poor little guy and headed off to find some real fish at Sunburst!
The Bunkycooks have been reluctant to eat farm raised fish because of mercury levels, PCB’s (polychlorinated biphenyls) and other contaminants in most of what we know as “farm raised fish”. When we had this trout, we realized there was something very different and wanted to see what they were doing to create such a delicious and fresh fish.
We met with Sally Eason and her daughter-in-law, Anna (who is a big Tweeter!) to talk about why their fish is so special at Sunburst. I was also
feeling like a rockstar honored to be able to meet with Sally since Bobby Flay and Jacques Pepin have been to Sunburst. There have also been a number of articles written about Sunburst, including this one about Sally in Forbes Magazine.
Besides all the star quality stuff, I know their trout is special because I am not a fish lover normally, but this fish is sooo different and so good that even I will eat it! I find their trout to have an incredibly mild flavor and a firmer texture than a wild-caught trout.
Sunburst was started by Sally’s father, Dick Jennings, back in 1948. It was the first commercial trout farm in the South. The original trout farm was on their family land in Cashiers, North Carolina. They moved to this location in Canton, North Carolina in 1965. You can read the entire history of Sunburst Trout Farms on their website. It really is fascinating.
Originally, they had trout ponds, but then built raceways after a couple years of droughts where they lost most of the fish. The raceways are far more efficient and much cleaner for trout farming. The water that runs through these raceways originates in the Shining Rock Wilderness Area in the Pisgah National Forest and flows right into Lake Logan which directly feeds their raceways. This farm is also located in the shadow of Cold Mountain (yes, that Cold Mountain of movie fame!).
When they moved to this location, they had no idea how fortunate they were. Their water source is part of the reason that their fish tastes so mild. They are also able to create a situation that can mimic the wild and is almost more optimal for raising their trout than growing in the wild. The water flows through the raceways at a rate of 12,000 gallons of water per minute. That sure sounds like a whole lot of water to me! This rate of water flow also keeps the raceways very clean, so it is not a traditional farming situation. Their trout does not contain any of the harmful pesticides, PCB’s or mercury normally associated with farm raised fish. I am sure that is also why is tastes so good!
Just another great article by Bunkycooks helping farmers in NC show folks how local food and fish are so good for what ails you!
Thank you Martha!
It’s good for what ails me! I actually crave this fish and that is something I have never done before! Lobster maybe, but never trout!
Great article! I love how they have managed a sustainable way of fishing. That fish is pretty neat-looking, and trout and vidalia must be such a great match. Thanks for caring and sharing.
Thank you Belinda!
Their way of farming trout will become even more important as we experience the loss of more fish and seafood from the oceans and rivers. This sauce/dressing was perfect and light for the trout. I hope you give it a try!
The color of that trout is so pretty! I love that he appeared, fully decked out in his waders.
Mr. Bunkycooks has lost his mind, but we are having fun! BTW, the trout is beautiful. I have never seen or tasted anything like it.
The things that I have to do…… I work for great food.
Yeah, yeah, yeah…;)
Wow! This sounds like an awesome place, you were so fortunate to get to visit and see all the “behind-the-scenes” action and share it with us! I will defintiely check out their website! Plus, Mr. Bunkycooks looks like a pretty serious fisherman, I am impressed. 🙂
Sunburst Trout was a fun place to visit and the Easons are delightful people! Their trout truly is phenomenal. You should try it if you can!
Mr. Bunkycooks has done a fair amount of fishing over the years, so he has all the gear. However, that was one sorry fish that he caught in that photo! 🙁
Another great post! I love trout, and it was exciting to see the process it takes to move it from the water to my plate. ( I love how you focus on so much sustainable food production) And what a tempting dish you featured! I was drooling at first site. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you for the comment. There are so many great farmers in this area that are all focused on providing great, local food. It is a pleasure to get to know them and write about it and cook the good stuff! 🙂
I have been concerned about farm raised seafood. It is nice to know that there are farms like this that ensure the quality and purity of their product. It just goes to show that you really need to know where your food comes from. Thanks again for showcasing these small, sustainable farms. They are so important to our future.
I agree, David. I think that there definitely is an increase (in this part of the country anyway), to go back to smaller farms and find ways to become sustainable.
I think Sunburst has done a great job of providing a premium trout in a safe and pesticide-free environment. I do think that we will have to rely on these types of farms for much of our fish in the future. Hopefully, others will follow Sunburst’s lead.
What a gloriously perfect North Carolina day you had for that visit. I’m glad that there are folks around that care so much about the environment and fish. It’s also nice to see some in our back yard. Thanks for another wonderful post.
The weather has been glorious, but hot! There are many folks in this part of the country that are really concerned with providing a safe and delicious food product. It is great to be able to get to meet some of them!
What a great and informative post this is! And the recipe… it sounds so delicious and the pics are stunning!
I have been and still am pretty paranoid about farm raised fish- for some reason I decided to research and write a paper on practices of salmon farming when I was in law school- random, I know. What I learned there made me very fearful of farm raised. It looks like there is hope though! Beautiful picture at the top!
I think you will find that this trout is very different. We will never buy farm raised fish, but now that I have seen where this comes from and know the story, I will only buy this trout. Otherwise, we will only buy wild caught fish from the ocean.
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Bunkycooks:
Please take us with you on your next adventure.
Mr. and Mrs. RGBistro
P.S. I LOVE reading about your travels!!!
I think it would be fun to do a post together! You need to head our way or we can head out West sometime…it would be fun! We all have great food and wine!
gosh… bring on more stories. love it
We love doing it! Thanks!
I hope we will be able to continue the stories!
This was great! Cashiers is on my list of places to visit; I’ve been told it’s beautiful. This farm looks like they’ve got the right idea and that fish looks so fresh and delicious! What a great adventure, thank you for sharing it with us!
This farm is actually in Canton, NC. It is not too far from Cashiers. All of Western NC is a pretty place, so you cannot go wrong visiting this part of the country!
I ADORE smoked trout and am sure if I were also in the car with you, there would definitely be nothing left but a little fishy smell by the time we got home!
I think we should share some smoke trout! If you can party with Mardi, you can party with us! 🙂
Mr. & Mrs. Bunkycooks
I’m so happy the Bunkycooks have been “on the road” so much, and appear to be having a grand time, because these are fabulous posts, taking a look behind the scenes. I didn’t know Mr. Bunkycooks was such a fly fishing fan! I LOVE fly fishing and would have probably been in my waders too if you mentioned trout. The smoked trout, and your creation with the buttermilk sauce, both sound delicious!
We are having fun and I am really enjoying meeting some new folks. If you head our way you know the fly fishing will be great…bring your waders!
The French Broad river and the Davidson river flow through Western North Carolina and are rated top trout rivers in the United States. The mountains of North Carolina are truly beautiful with lots to do.
what a great company and a great way of farming fish in natural waters – and the trout recipe, I can’t wait to try this one, it sounds incredible
I hope you will try this dish…in between the wild NOLA cooking!
Great Photos! The Buttermilk Trout looks sounds Great! We may be asking you if we can use it for our recipe of the month in September.
I am glad that you enjoyed the photos. You can definitely use the recipe next month! That would be great.
The trout dish is superb (and glad you explained about the coloring…I seriously thought it to be a salmon)…Wonderful write up. I must say I am an all wild caught girl, but I am appreciative of them from the information in your post…I like what they are doing from what I have read here. Love the photos, especially Mr. Bunkycooks and his prize catch, adorable 🙂
The color of the fish really is very pretty and their trout has a really nice firm texture. It is not mushy like some other trout I have had. I hope that other fish farms start to operate more like Sunburst. I think we would all have second thoughts about farm raised fish then.
Wow. That is one of the most delicious looking trouts I have ever seen. Love the post too.
Great to learn about Sunburst, what a wonderful experience. The trout is so pretty and you’ve made an excellent dish with it!
Thank you for the comments. This was a lot of fun and I had their trout several times prior to the visit, so I was really excited to see their farm!
Dear Gwen – What a wonderful, educational article – finally the mystery of why some trout look like pink salmon – solved!!!
So wonderful that you are doing these posts and we are all so much more informed becuase of your efforts. The sauce on the fish is lovely and I must try it soon and hooray for farm raised fish 🙂
Hugs, Devaki @ weavethousandflavors
PS – Come on now, you can’t deny Mr. Bunky his opportunity to play dress up 🙂
Yes, Mr. Bunkycooks is having fun…it has come to this?! That is what he says, but it still is fun!
This farm raised fish is so different. After seeing this trout farm, we feel more confident in eating this fish than we do in most wild caught fish from unknown sources.
Who doesn’t love trout?! such a delicious sounding recipe.. you get to go on some pretty cool adventures and meet some awesome people along the way!
That’s some good looking trout and your photos are great! I’m new here and will be looking at more of your stories! Love your writing!
I am glad that you stopped by Pam and hope you will come back often!
That is a gorgeous trout recipe! Love the presentation and photo 🙂 Mr Bunkycooks looks adorable in his waders ROFL