Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Oyster Farmers Taking Action

Last night I was able to sit in on a very productive round table meeting that brought together local oyster farmers and resource personnel.  The resource side of the meeting was represented by the FSA (Farm Service Agency), and members of UNH Cooperative Extension and NH Sea Grant.  The round table discussion was led by Charlie French of UNHCE community and economic development (below).  I must say, I greatly admired his ability to ensure those on the resource side and the farmer's side of the discussion had equal opportunity to speak their minds and communicate with each other.

It was an incredibly fascinating meeting, which began with presentations by Ray Grizzle and Steve Jones of UNH to present the history of oyster farming in New Hampshire and the risk of water-borne disease within the oysters.  Their presentations were highly informative- I did not previously know that oyster farming is practiced in so many regions of the great bay and how much the farmers must invest before they can begin.
Charlie French of UNHCE leads the round table discussion
The round table discussion began with asking the oyster farmers what challenges or barriers they currently face.  It was a common theme that getting started was not easy.  In order to begin, several years worth of money must be invested for them to get a loan to begin their farms, however; it takes about three years for the oysters to become market size.  Thus, getting enough money together to begin an oyster farm is a difficult process, and anything that can be done to make this easier on new farmers would be extremely helpful.

It was incredible to see the dynamic between these oyster farmers.  They have a strong drive to work as a more cohesive group and they have intense visions of where they want to see this industry go.  For example they want to be able to lease their own area for farming where they will have space for their boats, areas to sort their crop etc.  I have no doubt that if these people stick together, they will create great things.  I hope more meetings such as this one can occur for this group to maintain open communication between the business world, and those who are out working in the oyster farms.  If there is one thing to take away from these experiences, it is that communication is vital to seeing these industries thrive.

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