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‘‘It’s a great profession, but there are a lot of barriers to entry,” says Mark Blevins, the county extension director for Brunswick County and a board member of NC Catch, a group dedicated to promoting the state’s seafood economy. “Not a lot of young people are getting into it because of the barriers — regulations, cost. It’s tougher and tougher to make a living.” Few places are feeling the pinch as keenly as small coastal towns like Varnamtown, where just about everyone once depended on fishing. The town sits on the west bank of the Lockwood Folly River, home to a few hundred folks. It wasn’t officially named until 1988, when it was incorporated. But it has been called Varnamtown for as long as anyone can remember. The Varnams first settled the area before the Civil War, when Roland Varnam moved here from Bowdoinham, Maine. “The Carolina Watermen: Bug Hunters and Boat Builders” says Roland married an American Indian girl named Sarah Jane Pridgen and had six sons. One son, John, was born on April 2, 1869, in Smithville Township. He apprenticed with a boat builder, Mr. Manuel, in Southport when he was 10. John came back home after his mentor died, and began to build shrimp boats. The Varnams have been involved with the water and shrimping ever since, either build-ing boats, trawling, or selling the catch. Nicky Varnam is carrying on the family tradition. “I was born and raised on the river,” he says. “I shrimped with my daddy since I was 12 years old. Outboard motor, shrimping in the creeks. I went from there to larger-sized boats. I shrimped 18 years.” Top: Miss Margaret approaches the Varnamtown docks. Above: With fewer shrimp boats these days, seafood no longer arrives daily at Garland’s fish house. 42 WBM july 2016


2016-7
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