Taught to Fish
garden, he continues to be instrumental in
making sure healthy food gets to people
who need it the most.
“Valee was like a lot of us in Cedar
Grove,” Hackney said. “He was kind of this
broken man who wanted to give back to his
community. I think we were in the right
place at the right time under the right circumstances, and something very beautiful
has grown out of that.”
He could fish after all
When Taylor’s doctor had asked him
about a hobby, fishing was the first thing he
thought of. So it’s fitting that the journey
that began with that first step out his front
door led to the founding of the Taylor Fish
Farm in 2009. Think of it as the for-profit
arm of the Taylors’ ongoing effort to make
The farm is a family affair. Taylor, with
his sister Renee Stewart ’ 77 and brother Dr.
Jerry Taylor, obtained a $1.2 million loan to
build the facility. Valee’s son Jeremy Taylor
runs the day-to-day operations.
Stewart, a pharmacist, initiated the idea.
She and Valee partnered with the N.C.
Cooperative Extension Service and the
department of biological and agricultural
engineering at N.C. State University, which
designed and engineered the facility and
trained Valee and Jeremy to run it; the Tay-
lors and N.C. State share a copyright for the
design. They’ve also received small-business
support from Orange County — $9,447
for utilities extension in 2009 and a general
grant of $11,000 last year.
The indoor farm produces tilapia that
are virtually free of mercury and other tox-
ins thanks to their soybean meal diet and a
state-of-the-art recirculating aquaculture
system. The water used in the large, open
concrete tanks is continuously recycled
through a filtration system. Solids are re-
moved, microbead filters further purify the
water, and then the water is reoxygenated
and returned to the tanks.
Jeremy Taylor logs about 55 work hours
a week, continually testing the tank’s oxy-
gen level, alkalinity, ammonia, nitrites, cal-
cium hardness, chloride and carbon dioxide.
“I enjoy watching the fish grow,” he said.
“It gives me a sense of accomplishment.”
The farm packages some live fish for
wholesaling, and the rest is sent to Southern
Foods in Greensboro for processing. From
there, the fish goes to the farm’s customers,
including Whole Foods, Publix and Duke’s
Fuqua School of Business cafeteria.
“We don’t use steroids or hormones
in the fish, so we have to be very careful
where we source the baby fish from,” Valee
Taylor said. “We test for all 209 carcinogens
[PCBs]; we’re Whole Foods-certified. We’re
one of the few fish farms that have that GAP
certification,” referring to Good Agricul-
tural Practices, voluntary audits by the U.S.
Food and Drug Administration that verify
that food is produced to minimize risks of
microbial food safety hazards.
His pitch sounds as if it might be a family
affair as well.