In the 1700’s and early 1800’s, Rhode Island, specifically Narragansett Bay, was one of the most productive oyster fisheries on the planet, and fishing and aquaculture drove much of the local economy. But the arrival of the industrial revolution and the mill and textile industries situated on waterways that led into the bay created massive amounts of toxic runoff that wiped out the oyster and fishing industries. But years of diligent clean-up strategies have restored much of the bay, and Rhode Island, with a big push from URI’s aquaculture program, is once again leading the country in aquaculture. Oyster farming is the star attraction, with farms established in various locations around Narraganset Bay, and also in the salt ponds along the shores of South County.
Jeff Gardner established Watch Hill Oysters over twenty-five years ago, on Winnapaug Pond just outside of Westerly. He is one of the fathers of modern Rhode Island aquaculture, and his oysters are sought after the world over. In addition to being a wonderful character, Jeff is a wellspring of knowledge and experience. We spend a day with his hard-working crew and learn all about oyster farming and oysters, and what makes Watch Hill oysters unique. After harvest, we’ll follow the oysters to the world-famous Nordic Lodge, just up the road in Charlestown.
Go to Watch Hill Oyster’s website: www.watchhilloysters.net