By Ford Silberhorn (a collegiate student and aspiring writer who happens to also be the eldest son of Marker Nine co-founder, Mike Silberhorn)
Oysters. What is it about those little bivalves that we love so much?
They may not be pretty.
I mean, people have even said ‘twas a “brave man that first ate an oyster.”
But what they lack in aesthetics they make up in total deliciousness.
Steamed, fried, raw, it doesn’t matter.
Odds are good that if you hail from a coastal town (like I do…what’s up, Gloucester, Virginia) then you have a taste for the oyster.
You know something else about the oyster? They’re good for the water and the watermen who make their livelihoods working it.
Just take the Chesapeake Bay – arguably the most incredible estuary in the world – where oysters are filter-feeders cleaning the contaminants that end up in the Bay. Oysters also provide food for numerous species in the Bay, and their oyster beds are often home to smaller species of fish that are in need of shelter.
So, why talk about oysters here, and now?
Because the mission at Marker Nine has been, from day one, driven by a celebration of all we love about the coastal life. Oysters and watermen are huge parts of that.
During 2020’s COVID-19 pandemic, aquaculture farmers were hit hard. Restaurants were shut down, which mean people weren’t buying oysters in bulk. No oyster sales meant oysters weren’t getting harvested to sell, making room for more oysters to grow and clean the waters where they live.
Marker Nine did a SHUCK YOU COVID t-shirt (limited edition) to help raise awareness of the need to buy and eat local oysters.
But the long term sustainable solution requires people to know, support and buy from their local oyster farmers.
So in honor of them, that’s why we bring up oysters here and now.
Living on the Middle Peninsula? Here are three oyster farmers we love and would love for you to support.
Tommy Leggett York River Oysters
Oysterman Tommy Leggett’s York River Oysters are a staple of numerous local restaurants and for good reason. Considering that Tommy’s farm is located within miles of where John Smith was saved by Pocahontas and Cornwalis’s surrender at Yorktown, these oysters are bursting with Virginia history.
These oysters are bought early when they are just seeds from local hatcheries and are slowly and carefully grown to size using environmentally safe techniques.
Available in several sizes that are perfect for shucking, stewing, and eating.
Want to see where these oysters are grown? Tommy offers farm tours.
Big Island Aquaculture
Located between Mobjack Bay and the beautiful York River lies Big Island, where watermen have cultivated oysters for years.
Run by Daniel and Bruce Vogt, a father and son duo, Big Island Aquaculture works with numerous universities in the region who use their oysters as living examples of the state of the Bay.
Big Island oyster are grown in floating cages, which naturally help to keep oysters clean, providing a unique and delicious flavor.
Cappahosic Oyster Company
Founded by Mark Vann and Marcia Berman, Cappahosic Oyster Company is named for the Cappahosic House which acted as shelter and housing for travelers seeking to cross the York River by ferry in the 1700s.
Present day, the oyster farm is located only miles upriver from Yorktown. Their oysters are grown in upwellers until transferred to homemade cages and placed into the river where they absorb the amazing flavor of the York River waters.
In 2020, Marker Nine launched an EAT LOCAL line of shirts, with oysters playing a key role in one of the designs. A portion from each sale of these EAT LOCAL OYSTERS shirts will benefit the very watermen and aquaculture farmers bringing this seafood to your table. Thanks to a collaboration with Consociate Media and the Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission in Virginia, Marker Nine is contributing funds from the sale of this shirt to Bay Direct, an online marketplace that helps watermen and aquaculture farmers bring their catch directly to consumers.