Oyster farming similar in many ways to growing vegetable crops
Despite the fact that we are proud to have absolutely no fish farming allowed in Alaska, we also are proud to have a wonderful variety of fish available at the Homer Farmers Market. When it comes to seafood options, there may not be a more fun place to find what you want.
If you head right over to the Tilgners’ smoked salmon booth, don’t miss a chance to try a taste of the Scottish-style cold smoked reds. If you head left to the Seafoods of Alaska booth you will find more options for smoked salmon from Tustemena Smokehouse, as well as frozen scallops, black cod, rockfish, rock sole, salmon, halibut cheeks, razor clams and even king crab.
But there are still more options.
Keep going and you will see the booth representing the one farm at the Farmers Market that is in the water instead of on land. Jakolof Bay Oysters is where you will find the fresh oysters and mussels.
The Reveil family, Margo, Frank, Logan and Kennan, can tell you that oyster farming requires as much work and dedication as any land farming. It’s a multi-year process with mature oysters ready only after four to five years.
Oyster farmers buy seed (spat) like farmers do, and they harvest like farmers do. They grow their product in lantern nets rather than raised beds and clean seaweed off the nets like farmers pull weeds. But that’s where most similarities end.
There are always tricks to the trade. To make the meat of the oysters firmer and sweeter, the Reveils use “beach hardening” to get the oysters in shape.
It turns out, oysters get soft and lazy floating in the water column. So they move the older mussels to a place where they will land on the beach as the tide goes out. This will toughen their shells and strengthen their muscles as they clamp tight until the tide comes, then feeding on that fresh flush of stirred up seawater.
This Saturday, Margo will be doing oyster shucking demos, so come on down to see your farmers at work from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. down on Ocean Drive.
Kyra Wagner is the director of Sustainable Homer and the Homer Farmers Market’s biggest fan.
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