Over the summer I had a chance to visit Lucky 13 Oysters, a local oyster farm in the Great South Bay. It is a family-owned business. They have been in business for three years. The oysters, when harvested, are sold to local restaurants.
The farming process starts with the purchase of oyster seedlings from hatcheries on the East Coast. A baby oyster seed starts out 2 mm long and grows to 3 inches. It takes up to two years for an oyster to go from seedling to the dinner table. The seeds are placed into mesh bags that are in a special floating system to keep them safe. Matt Welling, one of the owners, likes to flip the mesh bags over every few weeks so that they are exposed to the sun and wind, thus removing natural bio-fouling. During the winter months, the mesh bags are submerged, to protect them from ice formations.
A few times a year, the oysters will be cleaned and sorted. They are sorted and placed back in bags of similar sized oysters. The cleaning of the oyster shell involves the oyster passing through a PVC pipe, with lots of holes to scrape off the wild growth. When the oysters are ready for sale, they again go through the tube to be cleaned and distributed to restaurants.
Welling feels that oysters have made a positive impact on the bay. The benefit of the oyster farms is that they are continually filtering the bay, which helps to make it cleaner and healthier. Some people have noticed that the bay is cleaner since the oyster farms have been in action. Welling mentioned that there have been oysters growing naturally in the bay now, which is proof that the water is cleaner.
I thought oyster farming was cool. I never realized how much work they put into it. They work almost every day and put in a lot of hours on their farm. Farming oysters on the bay is much different from farming crops on land but they both take a lot of dedication to do it right.