Our first day of class started early. We met up at 6am to drive from Dauphin Island, Alabama to Florida.
A quick stop for lunch in Mexico Beach, Florida (where all the girls couldn't resist getting in the water).
Apalachicola, Florida : We met with T.J. Ward at 13 Mile Seafood Market to discuss the current state of oyster farming and shellfish aquaculture in Franklin County. This area has experienced serious declines in oyster production in recent years after having a plentiful bounty of naturally grown, wild caught tonged/culled oysters for many decades. (A harvesting method that is still strictly enforced today).
With such a rich history of oysters and oyster life in this small community, it is difficult to understand all of the dynamics affecting the people, places and products of this region. Environment changes (such as higher salinity) and resistance to technological advances in oyster aquaculture cloak an emotional drape across this bucolic town. But that doesn't stop the oyster cravings, or people (like me) who seek them out.
Here's a quick summation of the current state of oysters from Garden&Gun Magazine who share their oyster love with Apalachicola, Florida this month.
Wakulla County, Florida
We kept movin' right along the Florida Panhandle to our next destination : Wakulla County, Florida.
Here we met up with Bob Ballard from Wakulla Environmental Institute and several of his team from Panacea Oyster Co-Op . We got to ride out to see the acres of oyster 'ranching' take place in this area. There is a young and booming oyster scene happening just south of Tallahassee. This article gives a great overview of what's been going on in this region with oyster farming and development in the last few years. It's a thrilling and tumultuous time to participate in shellfish aquaculture in Florida.
We ride out to see the vast acres of water that have been approved for oyster farming in Oyster Bay.
Susan explains their current methods of grading oysters by size. This newly operational oyster farm/ranch is still learning how to manage an enormous fleet of Australian-style long line baskets with ample oyster babies growing rapidly in these fresh/salt water bays. Lofty goals have been set to produce upward of 800,000+ marketable oysters each year from these specific waters. This is a shared dream of oyster co-op members, a group of farmers/ranchers who share the oyster love with one another in a unique system of cultivating and marketing their oysters from this specific region of Apalachee Bay, Florida.
Bob Ballard of WEI and Panacea Oyster Co-Op
Shuckin' a few oysters fresh out of the water.
Second boat with members of the co-op and students from AUSL and Bill Walton.
Truck Stop Map of Florida (with prominent dirt finger smudges in the areas we were traveling)