Man Finds Rapid Success in Cricket Sales About a year ago, a friend of Carl Jenkins offered him $50,000 to start up his own business. Remembering how hard it was to keep their pet reptile stocked with crickets, his wife suggested a cricket farm.

Man Finds Rapid Success in Cricket Sales

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ALEX CHADWICK, Host:

Sean Hurley went down on the farm.

SEAN HURLEY: Carl Jenkins, in shorts and T-shirt appropriate to the 85-degree heat in the brightly-lit hatchery, opens one of the cricket bins.

M: This is a typical set-up.

HURLEY: What is that made of?

M: This is made of coconut husks, actually. It's ground-up coconut husks. It's called forest bedding. And they just started laying, you can see, some of the little eggs here.

HURLEY: Oh, I see, yeah. It's like very small rice.

M: Yeah, exactly.

HURLEY: While clearly an operation under full sway with a processing area, an office, a hatchery and main growing room, there's something comforting and almost homemade about Crazy Carl's Cricket Farm. There are no special instruments or wild cricket technologies at work here. As it turns out, Carl has built his hatchery from those things closest to hand.

M: It looked good. Everything here is from either - it's from Lowe's or Wal-Mart or the dollar store. I mean - and I go on great tours through, you know, through Lowe's trying to - looking at things, how can I use something different?

HURLEY: Carl and Kathleen Jenkins have only been in business for nine weeks. But they already need to expand the hatchery to keep up with the demand. There are a lot of cricket-eating lizards out there.

M: The crickets are the number one feed. There are 4.5 million households caring for reptiles as pets across the country, and they're caring for over 14 million reptiles.

HURLEY: Carl says that there are 10 to 12 major cricket breeders in the country. It's mostly a warmer climate enterprise and there were lots of doubts about whether Carl could establish a viable farm in New Hampshire.

M: I actually had a pet store guy in Maine says, well, you know, I heard you can't grow crickets in New England. And I said, well, I've got a million crickets that tells you you can.

HURLEY: While the larger breeders process about a billion crickets a year, Carl's ambitions are a little more modest.

M: My goal is to grow this up to 50 to 60 million crickets a year in a state-of-the-art hatchery, probably employing for 20 people. So...

HURLEY: There's something convincing in the sonorous and subtle ebb and flow of the crickets' chirping that makes this goal seem possible. It's also obvious that Carl and Kathleen are working very hard to make their business a success. But according to Carl, there's nothing he'd rather be doing.

M: I spent my life trying to find that one little business, that one thing that would be different, and this is it. It truly is.

HURLEY: For NPR News, I'm Sean Hurley in New Hampshire.

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