Rob Rowe (Director of Operations, Shell Ring Oyster Company) and I were shedding soft shell crabs. It was 3 a.m. and I joked, “We’re going to get bored when shedding is over.” That’s when we started talking about harvesting oysters.
Shortly thereafter, I remembered a quote I had read in grade school science class. It said something like, “In order to right all the negative ecological impacts humans have caused, we need to look toward nature to learn how to better protect our environment.”
Born and raised enjoying Hilton Head Island’s unique and natural habitat, I have always felt honor bound to be a good steward of the sea and committed to preserving the Lowcountry. As the general manager of my family’s business and the Island’s oldest restaurant, Hudson’s Seafood House on the Docks, I also feel compelled to support local fisherman and give my patrons the best possible ingredients for the best possible price. So I asked myself, “By farming my own oysters, could I help improve our environment, stimulate local businesses, and negate the middle man and create a better tasting product?”
The answer, as our inaugural year proved, is yes—on all accounts.
Within a few weeks of my conversation with Rob, I started the permitting process and spent two weeks apprenticing in Chincoteague, Virginia. And then I met local legend Bill Cox. We developed a really good friendship and he mentored me with extensive knowledge and dedication. The more I learned the more I was reminded how true the quote I read in grade school was. Nature is an excellent example of symbiotic and synergistic relationships and what started as a “what if” comment has escalated into a full dialogue about sustainable perfection.
In one short but learning-curved packed year, Shell Ring Oyster Company cultivated 70,000 plus oysters and now offers briny bivalve lovers like you and me both wild shell ring salts and cultured shell ring salts. Cheers and happy shucking.
—Andrew Carmines, president of Shell Ring Oyster Company