Glidden Point Oysters: A cut above the rest

“Glidden Points stand out on raw-bar lists for their size, crispness, brine, deep cup, and rock-hard shells.’ - Rowan Jacobsen
Posted:  Monday, August 7, 2017 - 8:45am

Story Location:
637 River Road
Edgecomb  Maine  04556
United States

On Jan. 12, 2016, Ryan McPherson bought Glidden Point Oyster Farm in Edgecomb. Established in 1987 by Barbara Scully, the Glidden Point oyster has become one of the most coveted in the area, and far beyond.

McPherson ran the operation from its original site at 707 River Road for a year. “We didn't make any changes with the customers and the way we farmed,” he said. “We watched and did exactly what (Scully) had done for the last 30 years.”

In December 2016, he moved his farm to its present location at 637 River Road. “It’s the perfect place to operate an oyster farm. I had to scramble to make it happen, but it was an opportunity I just couldn't pass up.”

McPherson started working to bring a team of employees together. It was important to him that they all had a “good attitude and an open mind.” He said he felt lucky to have the group of six working for him now. “They work well together. When you see the team camaraderie it makes it all seem right. Together we started figuring out what we were going to do going forward.”

Now there’s a retail store and an office in a converted barn that was on the property, and a dirt road winds down to Jack’s Point on the Damariscotta River where the oysters seeds are planted, and the mature oysters are finally gathered and packed up to distribute throughout the United States.

McPherson, originally from Marshfield, Massachusetts, wasn’t new to aquaculture. He had fished out of Nantucket and other ports, raised mussels on Martha's Vineyard and worked at oyster farms in Massachusetts. “I was intrigued with aquaculture, and I knew that a quality oyster had a home in the marketplace. Barb had created a quality oyster from day one, and people were really appreciating them.

“What Barb had created was exactly what I wanted.”

The oysters’ lives begin with seeds purchased from area hatcheries in June. The seeds are graded according to size and density, and placed in floating mesh bags on the surface at the nursery, just downstream from Great Salt Bay. The oysters are nourished by the phytoplankton that floats around the surface.

Around the end of October, the seeds are removed from the bags and planted on the ocean floor at three different sites totaling around 30 acres, where they will remain for two to four years, when divers start harvesting them by hand. Once most of the oysters have been picked up, McPherson said the remaining ones will be dragged for.

Place and practice is the term McPherson uses to explain the high quality of his oysters. “Ninety percent of what makes a good oyster is the place they grow in. Start with the cold, quality water we have here, and zoom into the Damariscotta River where quality oysters have been being produced for a long time.” The practices he uses in farming his oysters account for the other 10 percent. “How many we plant per acre, how we raise the seed, and how we harvest them all have an impact on the quality of the oyster.”

McPherson talked about oysters’ increasing popularity: “It’s a product that restaurant chefs can build a menu around. For the first time we have a craft product from the fisheries that’s reliable. Because we’re farming them, restaurants know they’re going to be able to get them.”

On July 31, McPherson and four of his employees, or team, as he calls them, were on the dock grading the new, tiny oysters, according to size. Fully matured oysters harvested that morning were waiting in wet storage bins that act as coolers to be sorted and distributed that day.

Rowan Jacobsen wrote about Glidden Point oysters on his website, The Oyster Guide: “Glidden Points stand out on raw-bar lists for their size, crispness, brine, deep cup, and rock-hard shells. What I always notice is their weight. Hold a Glidden Point in one hand and a different oyster in the other and you will immediately notice the heft of the Glidden Point. Both the shell and the meat have a density that comes only from slow growth in cold water: Glidden Points are grown forty feet deep in the frigid Damariscotta, making them perhaps the deepest- and coldest-grown oysters on the East Coast.”

The oysters are distributed by trucks to major cities along on the East Coast, and transported by FedEx to restaurants all over the country and Canada. Weekly, 10,000 to 30,000 are sold.

A tour of the oyster farm is offered daily. Call 207-315-7066.