The growing process can vary almost completely from every bay, river, and farm. Each lease has their own unique characteristics, so oysters can be grown in a variety of methods. Cascumpec Bay brand oysters are grown using the OysterGro® system which is a floating rack method that allows the oysters to feed from the top 4”- 10” of water, which happens to be where the most nutrients are. Growing oysters using this method in Cascumpec Bay and Foxley River takes 3-4 years.
The growth cycle is described below!
Spat (a.k.a. baby oysters)
In July of every summer, when the water temperature is just right, the oysters will release larvae known as “spat” which the growers will try to catch using “spat collectors”. This process needs to be timed perfectly and the farmers are very cautious about not putting their collectors out too early, which can slime up and not be sticky enough for the larvae to attach. It takes 2-3 weeks before you can even tell if you have a “good set” or not. By September, it is time to take on the physical task of knocking the spat off the collectors (via foot stomping and paddle whacking) and gather the baby oysters (which are the size of a quarter by now) and place them in OysterGro cages where they start their journey to becoming market-sized oysters.
Seed ( 1-2 year old oysters)
The following spring and summer after the spat is collected, the main focus turns to maintaining the oyster seed. The seed is tumbled, culled, and placed in bags in each of the first two full years of growth.
The key to having great looking market sized oysters is in the seed-culling process… where we are very fussy about picking out odd shaped oysters.
Mature market-size oysters (3-4 years in the making)
The third full year our oysters is an exciting time… this is where we can see the fruits of our labor! Once again, in May of the 3rd year of growth, we do the tumbling process to encourage “good” growth among the oysters. Starting in August, the oysters are ready to harvest. The bags are emptied into containers then taken to our floating shack, where we grade each one by hand to ensure the utmost quality. After 3 full years of growth, we usually count on about 70% of the oysters to be ready for market, while the remaining oysters will be re-bagged for one more season.
With all the culling, tumbling, air-drying, and general TLC, our oysters really stand out and prove to be popular among shuckers and consumers!