Mountain wisdom meets innovation at Sunburst Trout Farms in Haywood County. Pure water from the Pisgah National Forest rushes down the Lake Logan dam and trickles into Sunburst’s trout ponds. The fish swim through the 57-degree water until they’re large enough to be featured on menus throughout the region.
Fish that were swimming on a Tuesday morning can be the catch of the day at high-end Asheville restaurants that evening — a remarkable level of freshness for a landlocked mountain region.
“You couldn’t duplicate this probably anywhere in the country,” says Wes Eason, sales and processing manager for Sunburst Trout Farms. “You’re not going to see trout farms in Florida or Charleston.”
Wes is the third generation to raise trout at Sunburst, which was founded by his grandfather in 1948. The company preserves Appalachian food traditions, including the value of necessity. Morsels of trout that are too small for fillets become smoked trout dip or trout jerky, continuing founder Dick Jenning’s waste not, want not philosophy.
“People in Asheville really enjoy a bit of a story with their ingredients,” says Wes. “When people do the farm tours here or I give an individual tour to a small family, they’re really intrigued by the location and the tales of what we’ve been through and where we are now.”
Some of the Sunburst’s most unexpected products are embraced by internationally known chefs like Katie Button, who uses trout caviar on her upscale deviled eggs at Nightbell in downtown Asheville.
“We’re honored to be in WNC and to have tight relationships — on first name basis — with almost all of these chefs,” says Wes. “It doesn’t just feel like a business transaction. I look at these chefs as friends of mine.”