Small U.S. Oyster Farms Are on the Rise

On the Atlantic seaboard, a revival in small-scale oyster farming
Jules Opton-Himmel, a founder of Walrus and Carpenter Oysters, tends his crop in Rhode Island's Ninigret Pond. The Yale grad expects to gross $200,000 this year from his three-acre plot Photograph by Jason Houston for Bloomberg Businessweek

Standing on the plywood deck of a 22-foot aluminum pontoon boat, Jules Opton-Himmel surveys his domain. “This is my farm,” says the Yale forestry school grad, sweeping his arm over a pristine expanse of water stretching 300 yards from a red and green buoy to a white buoy on which a rumpled seagull perches. The 31-year-old proprietor of Walrus & Carpenter Oysters has spent the past three years tending half a million bivalves in the swift-flowing, nutrient-rich tides of Rhode Island’s Ninigret Pond, a shallow body of brackish water separated by a hundred yards of sand and scrub from the Atlantic Ocean. The oysters grow in about two years from seeds smaller than a dime to meaty, hard-shelled adults that fetch up to 85¢ a piece wholesale and retail for as much as $3 on the half shell in high-end oyster bars and restaurants.

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