Photo: Gilt Taste

Consider the Oyster Farmer: Practicing Shellfishness with Barnstable Oyster

In theory, it sounds like a cakewalk. After all, oysters can feed themselves, don’t run away, and won’t be destroyed by bad weather. Shouldn’t this be the easiest farming gig out there?

Those were some of Tamar Haspell’s thoughts when she first set out to learn the ropes of oyster farming. In 2008, she and her husband Kevin Flaherty moved from Manhattan to a new oyster grant on Cape Cod, diving into radically different lifestyles. Soon, they realized that oyster farming might be more arduous and less glamorous than it seems. Those waterproof waders? They invariably turn into saltwater sieves. That postcard perfect New England beach view? It’s a bit less charming when you’ve been hauling equipment in the stinging cold for hours.

In her piece “Consider the Oyster Farm,” Tamar reflects on the grueling task of moving seven tons of oysters from one tray to the next:

So you transfer and you shake and you clean and you transfer again. And you do it when it’s raining. You do it when it’s cold.

You do it when the greenflies and no-see-ums are there, not just to feast on you, but to laugh at you for deciding to schlep rocks in the sea for a living.

And, if you’re Kevin and me, you do it when you’re about fifty, well past your prime schlepping years. On a bitter December day, when I’m lifting hundreds of pounds of oyster bags over a gunwale into a boat, farming things with roots or legs starts to look a lot more appealing. Things with roots don’t have to be moved, and things with legs can move themselves.

Vibrant stories and characters like Tamar and Kevin make us cheer, as we get to know the faces behind the food on our plates. We know firsthand how precarious shellfish farming can be, and when a farmer is passionate about what they do, that dedication shines through the gray clouds of uncertainty and chance.

Luckily, Kevin and Tamar came away as fully-fledged winners from this experience. Their Barnstable Oyster is one of the finest we’ve ever tasted, the perfect balance between briny liquor, firm meat and a subtly peachy sweetness. We are proud to partner with them, and introduce the Barnstable Oyster to New York’s great chefs, line cooks, servers and oyster lovers like you!