In an effort to diversify our Long Island experiences, we searched for an oyster farm. Our trip was off-season (March), so most oyster farms were not offering tours just yet, so finding one was a challenge. I emailed a dozen of farms, and never got a response from anyone. I ended up calling one of them and arranged a tour!
This family-owned oyster farm is located in a residential waterfront area and looked just like one of nearby houses. We were greeted by the owner himself who told us an amazing story of their business.
Twenty years ago, this family sold their share in an IT business in Boston in an effort to retire. This is when they realized that they owned a few acres of sea bottom right in front of their house. They got inspired and decided to start an oyster farm!
They started by growing oysters using the traditional method, using crates that would be placed at the bottom of the sea for oysters to grow. Later they realized the disadvantages of this method: Lying at the bottom, oysters were prone to all kinds of predators (oyster drill snails, starfish, etc.) which would devour their crop.
Ten years later the family discovered an alternative – off-bottom – cultivation technique. This method takes advantage of tides which ensure that oysters happen to be off-water for an hour or so a day. While oysters can safely survive being above the sea level, their predators cannot, so this method ensures oyster crops are clean.
This oyster farming technique is often referred to as Japanese/Australian method or single-seed oyster culture method which involves hatchery-produced larvae (i.e. oyster seeds) sourced from local waterways. (In the traditional farming oysters are grown in clusters)
It takes two years to grow an eatable oyster from an oyster larva.
We had no idea this method existed!
The farm owner walked us through the farm, showed us crates which are used to grow the oysters, and answered all our kids’ questions!
At the end of the tour, he let us observe as he was picking oysters right from the sea for us to taste! This is as close to oyster picking as it can possibly get!
We love oysters and always seek local oysters whenever we travel. These oysters were delicious! The only difference from other oysters we tried was that the shells appeared to be much more fragile. We took some oysters home, and had some trouble shucking them without breaking shells.
Other than that, we thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience and loved the taste of locally grown oysters. I highly recommend this tour for families with kids as it was also quite enlightening!
Here’s the farm we visited: widowsholeoysters.com
It is located in Greenport, NY, and you need to call them to arrange a tour! It’s $35 per adult, and I think they only charged $10 per kid!