10 Lessons From Our First Month Of Oyster Farming
If you would have asked us five years ago how we’d be spending our days in 2018 I can guaran-damn-tee you that Trey and I wouldn’t have said “oyster farming”.
Actually, oyster farming would not even have been a blip on our radar. If I had to guess it would have been somewhere around 3,417th on the list sandwiched right between Olympic Pole Vaulters and the Super-Famous Rap Harmonica Duo.
I mean, in retrospect the whole oyster thing makes a lot of sense right? We grew up catching shrimp and crabs in the creeks of the Old Village together. Heck, Trey spent his entire life on the water becoming one of the most badass fisherman on the planet. And speaking of the planet, I’ve literally gone to the far edges of the globe to seek out the world’s best food and I’ve learned a thing or two about premium ingredients.
Add all of those things up and it’s not hard to connect the dots of how Lowco came to be. But as the saying goes, hindsight don’t mean diddly-squat.
So here we are, a little over a month into getting the keys to our very own slice of heaven in the ACE Basin and we are oyster farmers. Oyster. Farmers. Geez it still sounds crazy coming off of my finger tips.
Let’s embrace that crazy feeling and take a look back at what we learned in our first month (sorta*) of running the Lowco Farm.
Cool with you? Okay, let’s hit it:
*I say first month, but if you’ve been following along then you know we’ve been at it for longer than that. Paperwork and legal-stuff aside, we’ve been officially selling oysters for a month so that’s what we’ll go with here.
Lesson #1: The days are long
Maybe you’ve been following along with us and doing a little daydreaming about working in the great outdoors. You know, get outside, get a little muddy, carve out your own path in the oyster industry and make your living on the water. I mean…there’s not much to it is there? It’s just a bunch of cold beers and boat rides while you pull the occasional oyster out of its floating home, right?
It sure as hell didn’t take a full month for us to learn that ain’t the truth!
Oyster farming is just like any other type of farming. There’s a never-ending list of things to do on the farm which means we’re up early and back home late. So while the oysters might spend their lives lazily floating around, eating as much food as they can handle, we are hard at it making sure when a Lowcountry Cup hits your plate at the raw bar it’s the best effin’ oyster in the world.
Oh, yeah, Trey still does the “eating as much food as he can handle thing.”
Lesson #2: The mornings are beautiful
The days might be long out on the farm but there is something absolutely magical about early mornings on the water. We’re lucky down here in the ACE Basin where there’s about 1,000 times more wildlife than people. I’m not a very religious person myself but weaving through the back alleys of Fish Creek as the sun is just starting to stretch its arms is as close to church as you are going to get without pews and hymnals.
Lesson #3: More oysters = more wildlife
I just mentioned all of the wildlife that the ACE Basin is loaded with. Every single day we see herons, pelicans, dolphin, alligators, you name it. There’s even a community of copper-colored raccoons that come out at low tide and crack open some oysters raw bar-style.
While the whole area is teeming with life, there isn’t a more active ecosystem than the area immediately surrounding our farming equipment. In short, oyster farming creates a little oasis smack dab in the middle of the creek and our Lowcountry Cups are inviting all of their friends to come hang. Starfish, blue crabs, sheepshead, and all sorts of birds join the party every single day as they come out for a float and a snack. It really is nature at its finest.
Lesson #4: Oyster Farming > Going To The Gym
At the Oyster South convention in early 2018 one of the local oystermen started his speech with a quip that couldn’t ring truer. He said (paraphrasing): “If there’s one thing I know about oyster farming it’s that you can eat McDonalds, Wendy’s, Chick-fi-la, whatever you want really, and you are still going to lose 30 pounds.”
Well I’m just a little guy so I didn’t really have a spare 30 pounds to lose but I can definitely see what he means. Oyster farming is hard work and if you aren’t in shape when you start it’s only going to take a few weeks for you grow pipes big enough to actually fix the flooding problem in Downtown Charleston.
Lesson #5: Chefs are some quirky SOB’s
I’ll save all of the non-PG 13 stories for when you buy me a beer at the bar but just take my word for it when I say that chefs are almost definitely from a planet not named Earth. Love you guys, mean it 😘
Lesson #6: Freshness is EVERYTHING
Ask anyone who has been out to see the Lowco Farm and they’ll all tell you the same thing: there just isn’t much better than an oyster pulled right out of the water, thrown on ice for about 5 minutes and then shucked and eaten raw.
Now that might have a lot to do with us making sure our farm guests have a beer in hand when tasting said oyster. It also might have something to do with the unbelievable scenery provided by Mother Nature herself. Either way there’s no denying that an oyster tastes its best as close to harvest as possible.
That’s what we’ve prioritized above all else. Do we want the prettiest oysters? Yeah that would be nice. Do we want our oysters to have a unique flavor? Of course. But, in our opinion, those things pale in comparison to how fresh the oyster is when it hits your plate.
That’s why we created a program that incentivizes chefs to order smaller quantities more frequently. The truth is, most oysters you eat at the raw bar have been out of the water for 4-5 days. Those oysters are perfectly safe and delicious but every day they sit out they are losing a little of their magic. We don’t want that magic to go to waste. That’s why we work with our chefs to make sure you are getting the absolute freshest product you can. It ain’t easy but most things worth doing aren’t.
Lesson #7: There’s no happier dog than an #oysterdog
Oyster farming at Lowco isn’t just for a couple of goofballs from the Old Village. Actually I think the dogs like it more than us. Why you ask? Well if you know what dogs like – running around outside doing hood-rat things with their friends – then you’ll understand why an #oysterdog is a happy dog.
Pickles and Dredge – the Lowco Oyster Dogs – come to the farm everyday and have the time of their lives. No matter how stressful the day gets, seeing those tails wag and tongues bob on the bow of the boat makes me realize how lucky I am to be doing what I’m doing.
Lesson #8: The Tumbler is LOUD
What??? No seriously what??? I can’t hear you. This freaking tumbler is so loud.
One of the most critical pieces of equipment for oyster farming is a machine called the tumbler. It’s like a Gold’s Gym and the Sorting Hat from Harry Potter combined. We use it to make sure our Lowcountry Cups are in tip-top shape when they make their way to you. The only problem with our stainless steel sharp rock tornado is that it’s louder than sitting front row at a KISS concert (see for yourself here).
“Hey Eli, toss me some earplugs.”
“Toss me some…dammit never mind.”
Lesson #9: Boots are sexy
Speaking of hearing, you hear that? That’s right. That’s Mr. Issac Hayes dropping us head first into the Shaft theme song. Awww yeaaaaah baby, things are getting sexy up in this mother!!!
Ladies often say they like a man in uniform, well based on a few field tests the ultimate uniform ain’t one of those Air Force onesies, it’s a pair of Xtratuffs and some dirty jeans.
So ladies, if you are single skip Bumble and Match.com and head over to OysterFarmersOnly.com and see what all the fuss is about.
Seriously though, check out OysterFarmersOnly.com. For real click it. You know you want to.
Lesson #10: Support from the community has been AMAZING
I’m not going to lie, it’s not easy waking up before the sun comes up six days a week knowing another long day of hard work is staring me in the face. But still we get up every day and charge straight at it.
Why do we keep getting up and getting after it everyday? It’s because of YOU. Seriously, the community – both locally and from afar – has embraced us in ways we could never imagine.
Everyday we get amazing people who are living their own Rise’n Brine lifestyle reaching out to us and telling us to keep doing what we are doing. I can’t tell you how many days we’ve had where nothing is going right and it feels like the world has it out for us and then, bam!, an email or Instagram message comes in saying how much people appreciate what we are doing and all of that negative energy evaporates in an instant.
Thank you, seriously, thank you.
Until next time,
Malcolm “Potentially The World’s First Rap Harmonica Player” Jenkins
Those were just a few of the things we’ve learned since opening our doors. There’s lots, lots more. Got any more questions for me? Come on don’t be shy. Leave a comment below. I’ll respond to all of them. Promise.