For the oyster lover who doesn’t mind getting a little muddy, cold, and damp, Damariscotta River Association offers a two-year oyster gardening program. Participants grow oysters for noncommercial use, with instruction and support from professional aquaculturists and industry experts.
The 2018 program will begin in early April with a series of evening classes on oyster biology, the estuarine environment, water quality, biosecurity, oyster husbandry, and related topics. Participants will build oyster bags and prepare their gear; then, with 500 seed oysters each, they will begin the process of growing the young oysters in a shallow water area of the Great Salt Bay. Growers tend their oysters at least once every other week through the summer and fall.
In early winter, the oysters are put to “rest” at the bottom of the river, at a deep-water site near Dodge Point. In the spring of 2019, students will move them back to the Great Salt Bay, pull on their hip waders, and tend their “crop” over the second summer.
While eating the harvest is the ultimate reward, learning a lot about oysters and the estuarine ecosystem and enjoying the company of fellow oyster lovers will add greatly to the experience along the way.
The fee for the oyster gardening program is $450. This includes all instruction, course materials for the first two years, gear, oyster seed, and access to the oyster-growing lease sites. Students may choose to continue growing oysters for an additional two years for an additional fee of $40 annually.
Applications for the oyster gardening program are available online at damariscottariver.org/oyster-gardening. For more information, contact DRA Education Director Sarah Gladu at 563-1393 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
DRA’s oyster gardening program was originally the brainchild of Dana Morse of Maine Sea Grant. Morse had seen oyster-growing programs in other parts of the United States, including one started in the 1980s under the auspices of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and was inspired to create a similar program on the Damariscotta River. When DRA acquired an aquaculture lease in 2012, Morse was glad to “hand off the baton” and let DRA take over management of the program. The class is offered every two years.
Damariscotta River Association is a nonprofit, membership-supported, and nationally accredited land trust and conservation organization dedicated to preserving and promoting the natural, cultural, and historical heritage of the Damariscotta region, centered on the Damariscotta River.
DRA has active programs in the areas of land conservation, stewardship, community education, water quality monitoring, marine conservation, and cultural preservation.
Visitors are welcome at the Great Salt Bay Heritage Center in Damariscotta as well as the many other DRA properties throughout the region. For more information, call 563-1393, email email@example.com, or go to damariscottariver.org.