Pandemic Shuttered Sales to Seafood Distributors
When restaurants closed and travel ground to a halt in mid-March, Dorchester’s once healthy aquaculture industry saw the market disappear overnight. Many oyster farms in Maryland and in coastal areas across the country began selling direct to consumers to keep staff employed and operations solvent.
As Hoopers Island Oyster Co.’s Senior Manager Chris Wyer recently explained in an interview with WMDT that one step they took was to fast forward their plans to sell oysters direct to consumers to help make up for lost revenue.
“When all the restaurants closed, we looked to our local consumers. We’ve been selling in Cambridge at Emily’s Produce and Simmons Market, and in Easton at the Farmer’s Market.”
Hoopers has also opened oyster “pop-ups” for customers to pick up oysters at locations in Baltimore, Frederick, Glen Burnie and Severna Park.
Another Dorchester aquaculture pioneer, Choptank Oyster Company, is also selling their seafood locally at the Cambridge Farmer’s Market. They also market an oyster grow out float with 500 seed for ‘home’ gardeners. The floats are professional grade and designed to grow oysters at a homeowner’s pier. At $250, eligible Maryland residents can earn a $500 tax credit for having up to two floats.
To keep oyster farmers working, consider how you can prepare and enjoy more oysters. Plan to char-grill oysters for Father’s Day or organize a classic oyster roast around a fire pit or grill to celebrate your dad or grad.
From tide to table, each step of Dorchester’s seafood industry was severely impacted by the coronavirus. As restrictions begin lifting and restaurants open for outdoor dining, eating local seafood at home and dining out will continue to help watermen survive. See the updated Dorchester Dining Guide or visit Oyster Recovery Partnership to learn where you can source local seafood.
The following Dorchester County Oyster Farmers currently sell direct to consumers:
Choptank Oyster Company
Oyster: Choptank Sweets
Available: Cambridge Farmer’s Market, Ketchum’s Seafood Market, Direct
Phone: (443) 521-6425
Hoopers Island Oyster Co.
Oyster: Chesapeake Gold
Available: Simmon’s Center Market, Emily’s Produce, HIOC by appointment
Phone: (410) 397-3664