The Oyster sat up plump and round in the shell, the way an egg fresh and warm form the henhouse sits up in a frying pan.
- William Warner “Beautiful Swimmers”
Summer on the Chesapeake is a special time.
With 4 very distinct seasons, summer brings a roar of life back to waters that were frozen solid a few short months ago. Warmer water brings new food and life back to the oysters. It is fast paced season, as the oysters can double in size every few weeks. While largely at the mercy of mother nature, we make our decisions based on the previous years to shape and maintain inventory to last us through two seasons.
Starting slightly larger than a period on this page, every White Stone begins its life in our land based upweller tanks. Recent upgrades to our pumps and nursery allowed us to brign in approximately 7 million seed. A small fraction of these will become White Stones. Numerous culls and sorts let us be more picky about what reaches the final grow out stage. Our husbandry director, Sam Bedinger, had his hands full with oysters growing exponentially over the first few weeks of life. It is a race to keep them happy, and when they are large enough, get them out into the open water of the Chesapeake.
The first few months in the “big water” lay the foundation for what our oysters will be when they are ready to be sold. Simply put, we want to beat the hell out of them. To maximize the natural shaping of the oysters, we are constantly monitoring the volume, and weight of every cage. Too many oysters, too much bio-fouling, and we see the cages sit heavier in the water, and grow lazier, thin shelled oysters. Product that we want to call a White Stone, has been shaped by millions of collisions over its lifetime. After the first few months in their new homes, you can begin to see the effects of this on the shape and shell integrity of the oyster.
Growing oysters in a turbulent environment places a lot of stress on our equipment. Adam Hurley is our longest tenured employee, and since early 2015, has designed, built, and maintained a majority of our farm. From nursery tank plumbing, to the sub-aquatic line systems maintaining our farm, his borderline superhuman strength combined with ingenuity and experience are invaluable to the function and improvement of our farm. On a given day you can find him on a roof installing a new ice machine, or with a snorkel and flippers on, diving to drive 6 foot augers underwater. He is a big dude with a bigger heart.