14 Reasons Why Oyster Farmers Are the Most Badass Type of Farmers
Your oysters have had to do battle to be with you at happy hour -- fighting against the tides of the moon, crustaceous predators, evil sea-sponges -- for near on two years before reaching your multi-tiered seafood platter. Helping these guys survive their odyssey are the unsung heroes of the Oyster trade: the farmers. Yup, oysters are farmed, but there are no tractors and way more saving the planet. To prove it, we talked to a host of half-shell heroes to get the low-down on this salty business.
1. They don't have to feed their livestockAll oysters need is clean water. These guys are at the bottom of the food chain, filter-feeding on algae. It’s literally just the water that's shaping these guys.
2. Oyster farmers get to be as fancy as wine makersLike French terroir, oyster farmers get merroir. The characteristics of the water imprint on the flavor of the oyster. Mer means "sea" in French, and "terre" means earth or soil. So, yeah, they didn't really think that through.
3. It takes at least two years to harvest an oysterThere's no equivalent of oyster lamb. To get to the 4in market size, it takes 24 months. Factor in that you'll lose about half of every crop you cultivate and it's a serious labor of love.
4. But just three acres worth of oysters is worth six-figuresSure, that's about 250 thousand oysters, but that small footprint can be worth an impressive $200,000.
5. They're much greener than any other seafood farmersIt takes five pounds of wild fish to produce one pound of edible salmon. Like we said, it takes zero pounds of anything to make oysters. And one oyster can filter about 50 gallons of water a day, which helps keep the whole region healthy.
6. They harvest everything by handNo machinery or fancy equipment can currently reap an oyster bed -- it's all done the old fashioned way: hiring orphans with quick hands (kidding, OSHA).
7. Growing oysters means helping other crittersIt's not enough that they barely need anything to grow; oysters live in cages or racks, providing shelter for other underwater friends like crab and fish.
8. Farmers are helping save the planetNot only do they absorb carbon and turn it into calcium carbonate to strengthen and grow their shells, the oyster's most impressive feat against climate change is their absorption of nitrogen -- the sleeper greenhouse gas and the third most serious in the lineup of gases that affect our environment. A three-acre oyster farm can account for the nitrogen waste of up to 35 people or one Prince Fielder.
9. These dudes all know and like each otherHere's one sample from our many interviews:
"So, who else'd you talk to for this thing?"
"Well, so far this teacher at the NY Harbor Schoo-
Oyster farming is a really small community and they meet up at conventions every year or parties like the Billion Oyster Party, where farmers from around the US show up with their harvest and get together with oyster enthusiasts to talk and shuck and compare notes. And The Billion Oyster Project is even cooler than the Party because...