Face of a Food Champion: Chad and Keely Dutler
Chad and Keely Dutler of Shrimp 59 LLC credit the demand for local food with bringing them “back to the farm” and closer to their family. Local food group Flavors of Northwest Iowa has further promoted their company’s success.
|Chad Dutler holds up one of his shrimp, showing how clear it is. Photos contributed by Keely Dutler.|
The Dutlers grew up surrounded by conventional farming—their families raised hogs, cattle, corn and beans—but worked full-time in unrelated sectors. “We had pretty tight schedules,” says Chad, a former engineer technician. Keely worked as an administrative assistant and personal trainer and, between them, “we had a lot to do when we got home.”
Starting up a shrimp farm in February 2012 changed all that, and they are now able to dedicate more time to their children. “It freed up a lot of time to do what is important to us,” explains Chad. “We are home with the kids when they go to and from school […] and are able to attend and participate in more of [their] activities.”
The Dutlers were originally interested in using a popular aquaponics system to raise fish and vegetables, but decided on a shrimp farm after consulting with others around the country. It was a costly and disappointing start—the company they originally worked with created a business plan that turned out unsuccessful. “We worked with them for four months,” says Chad, “but found the [farming] system did not work and basically started from scratch and came up with our own setup.”
The Dutlers now sell their produce at the Sioux City Farmers Market, whose customers, they noticed, were looking to stay local with their purchases. The Dutlers wanted to move a high volume of shrimp each week and reasoned that word of mouth would help their product become popular in the area.
“It has taken a lot of things off of our hands,” explains Chad. “People come to the market each week just to get farm-raised products. [Our] turnaround time is faster and we don’t have to do a lot of advertising because people know we will most likely be there each week if we have shrimp available.”
The Dutlers became familiar with Flavors of Northwest Iowa through the farmers market. In August 2013, the local food group invited them to be part of a farm-to-fork tour for Ida County. Tour participants learned about Shrimp 59’s beginnings and heard what happened on a typical day at the farm as they toured the facility.
“It went really well,” says Chad. “We prepared some of our shrimp in three different marinades, and also had taste-testing of our cocktail shrimp versus store-bought ones.”
The following day, several participants stopped by the Dutlers’ booth at the farmers market to say how much they’d enjoyed the tour. They appreciated the sweet taste and texture of the Dutlers’ shrimp and wanted to buy more. “Word of mouth travels well through Flavors of Northwest Iowa,” says Chad of the experience. “It seems to be our best way to advertise!”
About this story
This story was produced to accompany a report documenting the impact of the local food industry on Iowa’s economy associated with the efforts of the Regional Food Systems Working Group. Consult the statewide report: 2012 Economic Impacts of Iowa’s Regional Food Systems Working Group.
For more information on the local foods work occurring in the northwest region, visit the Flavors of Northwest Iowa website.