Oyster Gardening Seminars Offered in VA

The Chesapeake Oyster Alliance is hoping to boost the Bay’s oyster population by 10 billion by 2025, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) wants you to lend a hand-and a dock-in the effort.

 Adult oysters fresh out of the gardening cage.

Adult oysters fresh out of the gardening cage.

In June, CBF will hold oyster gardening seminars throughout Virginia in Hampton Roads, on the Eastern Shore, on the Middle Peninsula, and on the Northern Neck. Seminars teach prospective gardeners how to care for baby oysters (spat) as they grow into adults over the course of a year.

Those who attend a workshop and are ready to garden will be given baby oysters on recycled shells (called “spat-on-shell”) and two cages for a fee to offset program costs. Attendees aren’t obligated to move forward as gardeners and only pay if they want to participate in the program.

Oysters are grown in cages suspended in the water from a residential dock or marina. After a year, gardeners return the oysters to CBF. The Foundation then places the bivalves on a Virginia sanctuary reef near their “hometown,” so to speak.

Returning gardeners can turn in their full-grown oysters and receive new spat during “round-ups,” which the CBF will hold on the same day as scheduled seminars.

CBF’s Virginia Oyster Restoration Outreach Coordinator Kelly Davis says that growing oysters, which filter water and provide much needed habitat for other species, is quite the experience.  "You are helping restore an iconic species,” she says. “These oysters will help create protected reefs that bring back crucial habitat in local waterways and the Chesapeake Bay."

To register for a seminar, click here.

Laura Boycourt