clamsThink clams and think about northeastern states? Think again. Cedar Key in Florida has a long history as a fishing community, but these days clams are a cash crop. Cedar Key is now one of the most productive clam-farming regions in the U.S.

“It took us a few years to learn the do’s and don’ts of clam farming, and we had to go through three or four farming cycles to get a commercial- sized harvest,” says Dan Solano, who started his clam business, Cedar Key Aquaculture Farms Inc., in 1992. “We had to come up with ways to strengthen our netting because for the first few years stingrays and black drum fish were eating holes through our nets and eating our products. Within 10 years of the net ban passing, Cedar Key was the No. 1 producer of farm- raised clams in the nation.”

Clam farmers like Solano get their seed, or baby clams, from hatcheries when they are just 5 to 6 millimeters in size, or about one- third the size of a penny. Florida’s climate gives farmers an advantage over northeastern growers by allowing them to grow clams more quickly – clam growth slows in cold temperatures.

Florida clam farmers ship more than 100 million clams annually, and 75 percent of their clam sales are outside Florida. The majority of Florida’s clams come from Cedar Key, which earned it the nickname “Clamalot.”

Cedar Key Aquaculture Farms raises Littleneck Clams, which are tender, flavorful and often served on the half shell.

Farms’ largest clients is Costco. They ship fresh clams to 180 Costco stores every week.

See Also:  Garden-Fresh Florida

“Whenever I go to a Costco store and look around, you can always count on U.S.-farmed clams. That makes me feel good, because I know I’m producing a product that’s being enjoyed right here – it’s not being imported from another country,” Solano says.


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