Oyster South Seeks To Expand Southern Oyster Farming and Educate About Its Many Benefits

shucked oysters on the half shell
Photo credit: Oyster South

Oyster farming creates a new generation of jobs in the seafood industry and provides the opportunity to learn a trade that will last a lifetime. Not only are fresh southern oysters being provided to those who want them, but oyster farming provides a career opportunity that can span generations. Oyster South aims to connect oyster farms and restaurants and provide the highest quality southern oysters possible.

Oyster South is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization that connects communities and provides resources to foster the success of oyster farming in the southern United States. The organization’s mission is to spotlight and expand the environmental and economic benefits of oyster farming in the South, which will increase sustainable seafood production, improve the health of our waters, increase the prosperity of our coastal communities and elevate appreciation for Southern farm-raised oysters.

Naturally, Oyster South got its start at an oyster bar. At Kimball House in Decatur, Georgia, Bryan Rackley, chairman of the board of directors for Oyster South, heard about off-bottom oyster farming in Alabama. This started a conversation between the oyster bar and these new oyster farmers. 

Rackley is a co-owner of Kimball House and, along with his partners, operates Shiny Dimes, an oyster farm in Spring Creek, Florida. The 1.5-acre farm has beds containing close to 55,000 oysters. 

Executive director Beth Walton explained, “We realized that we could build a relationship between restaurants, oyster farmers, and add an educational side to the oyster story.”

Walton has previously worked in the seafood realm with shellfish hatcheries, oyster farming, and education outreach.

Oyster South’s goal is to create events and education centered on sustainability. She explained that these oyster farmers’ work elevates the Southern oyster status that you find at your local restaurant and oyster bars.

oysters in large buckets
Photo credit: Oyster South

“We have what’s called a marine-advisory board that consists of agents from each member state,” she said. “We value and work closely with chefs and the farmers who grow these oysters and they go directly to restaurants. We try to partner up with them, especially for events. Oyster farmers will sometimes go the restaurants and be guest shuckers or chefs will come out to farms to learn more about it.”

Oyster South also provides server education to restaurant teams on why farm-raised oysters are essential so that they can better educate their customers. 

From March 9th to 11th, Oyster South will host its Oyster South Symposium in Savannah. The event offers an opportunity to educate oyster farmers, chefs, and suppliers on oyster farming and how they can improve the oyster experience for the public. 

Walton said, “We have presentations and discussions and a panel show. It’s a way for those involved in the oyster community to learn amongst themselves so that they can provide the best product possible.”

Another important issue to Oyster South is oyster shell recycling throughout the coastal areas. Walton explained that shell recycling creates the opportunity for oyster farmers to create reefs for better water quality for their farms.

Here in New Orleans, Pêche was one of the first restaurants to feature farm-raised oysters. Walton explained that Chef Ryan Prewitt is an early supporter of oyster farmers and their work to make oyster farming and consumption more sustainable.

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