Q. Will you tell me how to start a snail farm?
A. Not to be rude, but I’ll tell you straight: No. I routinely get many general emails like this and 1) it would take too much time to answer them all, and 2) this is my business! It’s taken me years to learn my craft and a quick email just ain’t gonna help you. There is much info on the internet if you dig and everything else will be very particular to your situation and location, i.e., you have to learn through experience. Ironically enough, the government agency most NOT wanting to promote snail farming in the U.S., our friends at USDA, have a extensive page of links regarding heliciculture (snail farming): http://1.usa.gov/1LwEkAg
By the same token, we are working to create a trade association called the Snail Raising Association of North America, devoted to those interested in heliciculture as well as working to change existing regulations to make it more accessible. Still a work in progress, but you can get started by visiting our website at www.heliciculture.us.
Q. I want the freshest escargots possible. Can you send me live snails?
A. Due to federal regulations, live snails and eggs CANNOT be sent across state lines without a tangle of federal permits, can take months and is quite unlikely to be granted unless you are a sanctioned laboratory. BUT, if you live within Washington state, live snails can be sent to you. But even the vacuum-packed snails are fresher than the canned ones from overseas!
Q. Can I visit the farm?
A. I am working toward this happening, but I’m just not set up for it yet. Hopefully by next summer this will be a reality.
Q. How do snails mate?
A. Snails are hermaphrodites, i.e., they possess reproductive organs of both males and females. So when they mate, they are able to inseminate each other. Then they can each lay a clutch of eggs, usually around 20-25. Outdoors in the Northwest, they lay one clutch of eggs per year. In warmer climates, they may lay two clutches.
A clutch of snail eggs (aka “snail caviar”)