The Rappahannock River. Lynnhaven River. Church Creek. Mobjack Bay. Tangier. Nassawadox Creek. York River. Hog Island Bay. Choptank River. Nanda Creek. James River. Hungars Creek. Chincoteague Bay. Little Wicomico River. Piankatank River. Wright’s Cove. Urbanna Creek.
A few of the local waterways that contribute to making Virginia the oyster capital of the East Coast.
Gallivan. Vogt. Ludford. Leggett. Croxton. Kellam. Bevans. McGee. Pruitt. Terry. Clark. Ruark. Land. Crabbe. Arnold. Nutt. Kellum. Saunders. Moore. Dise. Rose….and many more!
Lesser known and equally important are the names of the women and men on the frontlines of Virginia’s oyster resurgence. A strong sense of obligation to Virginia’s waterways and traditions drive this dedicated small group of individuals who share the Bay’s bounty.
Together they breathe life into Virginia’s waterways.
Spend a few minutes with the women and men who make their life and living on the water and it’s clear that oyster fishing and farming is a calling. A challenging yet rewarding way of life, not a job.
By the time the sun peeks over the eastern horizon each morning, they are already on the water dredging or pulling oyster cages (some up to 800 pounds when full), fixing equipment, cleaning their boats and cages, and sorting oysters ready for market.
Adding to the physical demands, Mother Nature tests the resilience of oyster’s watermen & women daily with howling winds, driving rains, icy waterways, frigid temperatures in the winter months and intense heat and humidity in the summer.
After a full day on the water, back at the dock or oyster house, the job of cleaning the freshly-harvested oysters begins, along with packing the oysters for transport and delivery, fixing equipment, and compliance paperwork.
Many oyster operations are small, multi-generational family-owned businesses where often the oyster man/woman is also the boat mechanic, delivery person, accountant, marketer and public face of the business. Year ‘round planning and prepping is a constant extended-day routine as they cover all the bases to ensure their livelihood and the quality of their bounty.
Pre-dawn wakeup call, solitary work on the water, often in challenging conditions, cleaning and packaging, driving across the state to deliver fresh oysters to restaurants and markets, evening events to shuck and share their bounty with customers, late night return home for compliance paperwork — a day in the life of oyster men and women is a long, rewarding one.
Written by Frank Morgan, Author and Creator of Drink What You Like Wine Blog
Visit the Virginia Oyster Trail Calendar of Events regularly for listings of upcoming activities and events.