Bay Center Farms raises both oysters and clams, although oyster farming is our main focus.
An oyster’s life begins with spawning, where eggs and sperm are released into the water in a population-wide reproduction event. This phenomenon can be replicated in a hatchery, and this is commonly done for most of Bay Center Farms’ oysters. In a matter of days, the fertilized egg will have developed two very small, thin shells and a cilia, or an organ that allows it to swim through the water. After this stage of development, an oyster will travel through the water until it finds a suitable place to live. It will then “set” or attach itself to a solid object, usually an old oyster shell, in order to continue growing.
At Bay Center Farms, we take these old shells covered in young oysters (which we call spat) and distribute them across our nursery beds. These beds are usually chosen because they are the ones that give the oysters the best opportunity to grow. The oysters will remain on this bed for about a year, withstanding currents and predators, until they are ready to be moved to a new bed and start the next phase of their lives.
After about a year, the oysters must be moved to another bed to better accommodate an oyster’s next stage of growth. They are picked up by the dredges, which drag a metal mesh bag behind them to collect oysters from the beds, and placed onto the new bed. Any oysters that are missed by the dredge are collected by hand and placed into tubs. These tubs are then picked up at high tide, dumped on board and transplanted to the new beds. The oysters will stay on this bed for another couple years until they are of harvestable size.
Once an oyster can be harvested, they are once again picked up by the dredges and taken to our plant. The oysters are thoroughly washed and then sorted by size before being inspected for quality and freshness. Afterwards, they are packaged in bags of 5 dozen and shipped to our customers. Some of the smaller oysters are shucked and sold in our retail store, Seasonal Seafoods, along with our clams and other merchandise.