This post was written as part of Progressive’s Apron Project, helping tell the story of people and their initiatives making progress towards a greater good. I have been compensated as a contributor to this project, but the thoughts and opinions in this post are my own.
Meet Ian Wile. Former big city film maker turned small town oyster fisherman. Ian and his oysters have become environmentalists and community builders too. How in the heck did all this transpire? Read on to find out the slimy, slippery, briny details.
Oysters as Environmentalists
Peconic Bay, NY used to be a thriving bay for seafood production. But over fishing and unsustainable harvesting practices turned the bay into a polluted, algae-laden mess. The canneries shut down and basically the town did too. End of story? Fortunately not.
Ready for a break from city life, Ian Wile applied for the rights to raise shellfish in the ruined bay, as a way to help revitalize both the bay and the local economy. He won the deal and after a successful Kickstarter campaign, the Little Creek Oyster Farm was in business.
Here’s what’s amazing about oysters: One oyster filters about 50 gallons of water per day. And by the time they are harvested, one oyster will have filtered almost 55,000 gallons of water. So remember that algae-filled Peconic Bay? It’s now being cleaned by oysters!
Not wanting to repeat the mistakes of the past, Ian and his gang take a farming approach to shellfish production. Oysters are seeded on the “farm” and harvested with minimal environmental impact. The farm itself creates artificial reefs that attract beneficial sea life to the area. Additional oysters are wild seeded in the rest of the bay as part of their Throw Some Back program. It all adds up to a much healthier bay!
Oysters as Community Builders
When Ian decided to take on the oyster business, the community surrounding Peconic Bay was suffering. The seafood industry jobs were gone and most of the original buildings were abandoned.
Now, dilapidated buildings are being used again, including this little shack and former bait shop in Greenport Village that is now home to the Little Creek Oyster Farm & Market.
The tiny shop serves oysters by the piece or pail. Shuck your own at the market’s outdoor picnic tables. Shucking lessons available!
Listen to Ian talk about his new labor of love. I don’t think he misses the film industry one bit!
“It seemed like an opportunity to do something that had lasting meaning for myself, and left the place better than I found it.” – Ian Wile
Images and video from Little Creek Oyster Farm and Progressive used with permission.