A Hog Island East Coast Field Trip
A Hog Island Oyster Co. East Coast Field Trip
The week of June 10 through the 17th, Hog Island Oyster Co. owners John Finger and Terry Sawyer had a unique opportunity. For the second year Hog Island was invited by the Smithsonian Institute, in Washington, D.C., to be part of “Savoring Seafood”, an event celebrating and educating people about sustainable seafood.
During their trip back East John and Terry visited some friends ‘in the field’ – oyster fields that is – to check out, and savor, some new oyster varietals to serve at our Hog Island Oyster Bars.
To complement our own oysters we grow in Tomales Bay, Hog Island Oyster Bars serve a rotating selection of top quality oysters purchased from small family farms throughout the country.
With so many oysters in the world how do we select the best? We begin by establishing relations with other oyster growers, often visiting the farms in person and sampling the oysters direct at their source. Fun for us, as oyster farms are usually situated in epic locations – beautiful bays, saltwater estuaries and river deltas. Once we’ve established that a particular oyster has the ‘mojo’ we’re looking for we buy and ship direct from the farmer – we never go through a distributor. After all, we are farmers supporting farmers.
And this is just part of our promise, and our fun, in bringing you the best ‘Farm to plate’ oyster experience, ever.
John Finger & Terry Sawyer
'Enjoy great oysters!'
Notes from the field:
On our arrival on Thursday, the day before the event, we traveled down into the Northern Neck area of the Chesapeake Bay, to visit our friends at the Rappahannock River Oyster Co. John had met Travis and Ryan Croxton, cousins who have revived a business started by their great-grandfather in 1899. They grow oysters in several places in the Chesapeake, as well as on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. If you’ve had Olde Salts or Sting Rays at one of our bars, you’ve had their oysters. We helped them harvest oysters for the event in D.C., then drove north.
That night, in the Van Sant Ocean Hall, in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, John and Terry along with some help from [John’s] nephew, Conor shucked oysters for 650 guests. After the event, we met the Rappahannock guys for a later meal at Hank’s Oyster Bar, a place we will be sending our oysters to in the fall.
After a little sightseeing in D.C., we headed out to the Eastern Shore of Virginia to visit two very different shellfish farms. We were graciously hosted by Alyson Myers, who has just recently started Kegotank Farms, on the shores of Gargathy and Kegotank Bays. She came to visit us about 4 years ago, and we have given her some advice. They have just started harvesting their first small crops, and are looking to scale things up in these two small bays formed by a series of barrier islands.
We next visited the H.M. Terry Co., half an hour south of Virginia, in the little town of Willis Wharf (on the shores of the 'other' Hog Island Bay!!). We were hosted by Pete Terry, who is the 4th generation in the business, and his daughter, Heather. They grow a large amount of clams, and have just recently gotten back into growing oysters, under the Sewansecott Oysters brand. The area is beautiful – marshes giving way to bays formed by wild barrier islands (Hog Island being one of them) with inlets to the ocean. We got to step foot on “the other” Hog Island, and even met someone who was born on the island back when there was still a village. We also learned about Hog Island sheep – a breed that developed over centuries of isolation on the island.
The oysters were great! And wer are excited to start to bring some in – so look for some Sewansecotts the next time you’re visiting our Hog Island Oyster Bars, and let us know what you think!
The 'other' Hog Island! Hog Island Bay, Virginia.