Grow your own oysters with Coastal Rivers’ Oyster Gardening program

Wed, 03/30/2022 - 8:15am

For the oyster lover who doesn’t mind getting a little muddy, cold, and damp, Coastal Rivers Conservation Trust is now accepting applicants to its two-year Oyster Gardening program. Participants grow oysters for personal use, with instruction and support from professional aquaculturists and industry experts.

Coastal River’s Oyster Gardening program was originally the brainchild of Dana Morse of Maine Sea Grant. Morse had seen oyster-growing programs in other parts of the country, including one started in the 80’s under the auspices of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and was inspired to create a similar program on the Damariscotta River estuary. When Coastal Rivers acquired an aquaculture lease in 2012, Morse was pleased to hand off management of the program.

Offered every other year, the 2022 class begins in mid-April with a series of Thursday evening classes on oyster biology, the estuarine environment, water quality, biosecurity, oyster husbandry, and related topics. Participants will build oyster bags and prepare their gear, then, with 500 seed oysters each, will begin the process of growing the young oysters in a shallow water area of Great Salt Bay. Growers will need to tend their oysters at least once every other week through the summer and fall.

In early winter, the oysters are moved to the Damariscotta River estuary, at a deep-water site near Dodge Point. In the spring of 2023, students will move them back to Great Salt Bay, pull on their hip-waders, and tend their crop over the second summer.

While eating the harvest is the ultimate reward, learning a lot about oysters and the estuarine ecosystem, and enjoying the company of fellow oyster lovers, will add to the experience along the way.

The fee for the Oyster Gardening program is $450. This includes all instruction, course materials for the first two years, gear, oyster seed, and access to the oyster growing lease sites.

For more information, contact Coastal Rivers Director of Education and Citizen Science Sarah Gladu at 207-563-1393 x340, or sgladu@coastalrivers.org. To apply for the program online, go to coastalrivers.org/event/oyster-gardening-2022/. Applications are due by April 12.