Crawfish: Heartland Becomes Cajun Country

Greg Booth's job is solving environmental problems. One pollution case took him to southwestern Louisiana to help some crawfish growers. Booth asked the growers if crawfish would thrive in Missouri and was advised, probably not. But the Dexter native didn't give up.

Booth and his brother Gary tested raising the crustaceans in a small pond in Butler County.

The test last year went so well that Level-Land Crawfish Farms has 100 acres under water and expects to harvest 60 to 80 tons of crawfish. They seeded the water with Red Swamp Crawfish from Louisiana but Greg says the same species is native to this


The flooded field, it's kept covered with about 16 inches of water, is getting a lot of looks from passing motorists on the old highway between Fisk and Poplar Bluff. Some even stop and ask, "What's going on?" especially when they see the boat used for collecting crawfish from traps. It looks like a double-wide John-boat with a paddlewheel on back to pull it through the shallow water.

Plastic traps are spaced across the water, baited with a commercial bait that attracts crawfish. Traps are lifted from the water, emptied and returned with fresh bait. It takes 12 hours to cover the 100 acres and must be done every other day.Crawfish are emptied onto a sacking tray and sorted. Small ones are thrown back to grow up. The keepers are packed in net bags and then taken for washing before they are sold. Handling them requires care. Crawfish are small but their claws are razor sharp and they are aggressive.

Greg Booth says Level-Land crawfish are ready for cooking when you get them. And they are farm fresh, unlike what's shipped in from Louisiana. Booth says the local market is growing. Level-Land sells to wholesalers, restaurants and individuals in Missouri, Illinois, Tennessee and Arkansas. And Level-Land is still working on cultivating the market.

That includes people who've never tasted crawfish. "How do you eat these things" Booth says the inexperienced ask.

First, only the tails are eaten. Second, they're often boiled with potatoes, corn on the cob and special seasoning.

The harvest season at Level-Land began in early May and will probably end by mid July. A shorter season than in Louisiana but Greg and Gary Booth say while they produce fewer crawfish theirs are larger -- and farm fresh.

Level-Land Crawfish Farms is located on Old Highway 60 in Dudley.