CBF Notes: How About Home-Grown Oysters and Wine?

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Crabs and Old Bay. Rockfish and lemon butter. Crab cakes and tartar sauce. The bounty of the Chesapeake Bay presents plenty of delectable combinations.

What about a new tradition: home-grown oysters and wine?

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) invites you to “Oysters & Wine on the Eastern Shore” on Sunday, Jan. 21 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. to learn how this unconventional pair is perfect together, and also to learn about oyster farming on the Shore, and other oyster-related issues.

The event will be held at the Eastern Shore Conservation Center, 114 South Washington Street, Easton.

Oyster aquaculture is a rapidly growing industry on the Shore, thanks in part to a 2010 change in state policy that created new opportunities for oyster farming. The state has approved about 400 shellfish aquaculture leases for 173 different leaseholders covering about 6,100 acres. It’s a $5 million industry, and growing, with production increased 1,000 percent since 2012.

Listen to local oyster growers tell their stories, and enjoy a selection of farmed oysters paired with a variety of wines, champagne, and craft beer. Heavy hors d’oeuvres, Smith Island cake, music by local favorite Kentavious Jones, and a CBF membership are all included in the ticket price–$35 with advance purchase at cbf.org/oystersandwine.

Oysters will be featured from Orchard Point Oyster Company, Hoopers Island Oyster Company, and Madhouse Oysters. Representatives from those oyster farms will be present to speak and answer questions. Oyster policy experts and scientists will also be on hand to provide information.

Johnny Shockley, a founding partner in Hoopers Island Oyster Company, recently hosted staff and board members from CBF at his new hatchery, the state’s first large private oyster hatchery built in decades. The 12,000-square-foot building is a sign of the potential growth in the industry on the Shore. The company plans to produce 700 million oyster larvae a year, some of which will be used to grow its own oysters, and some of which will be sold to other growers. Hoopers just announced the beginning of such sales this month.

A third-generation waterman from Hoopers Island, Shockley crabbed and harvested wild oysters for 30 years. His goal is not only to grow the aquaculture industry in Maryland, but also to revive the local Eastern Shore economy, and help create a sustainable oyster population.

If you are like us, you will find Johnny’s remarks, as well as those of other oyster farmers, fascinating. They also will show you the best way to eat an oyster. There’s more to it than you might think!

Tom Zolper is the assistant media director at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

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