Let me take a minute to catch everyone up on the farm activities of last year. We completed our harvest in early June and spent the next two months tending our “flupsy” – a simple floating seed nursery moored at the end of gate 3. The first 2mm seed arrived in the middle of May and to date we have successfully reared approximately 300,000 oysters to a size large enough to be moved to the farm’s beds in Drayton Harbor. These are now in Vexar mesh bags secured to a mile of ground line; the oysters continue to grow at an amazing pace.
Besides the flupsy, another new adventure centers around the restoration of our native Olympia oyster. We are partnering with the Puget Sound Restoration Fund in this effort and have 200,000 very small Olympias growing in the flupsy and another 40 bags of “cultched seed” (oysters attached to shell) stacked on the tidelands waiting to spread on a portion of the farm’s lease in the spring.
Water quality continues to be the major obstacle to farm operation. Drayton Harbor is a true gem; seed and oysters grow like no other place I have farmed, yet unpredictable winter fecal coliform levels keep the bay closed during prime oyster eating time.
Geoff Menzies and many of you have spent the past two decades working to secure the harbor’s shellfish legacy and this work will continue.
Besides the ongoing fecal monitoring work of the Washington Department of Health, county and tribes, a new initiative, Whatcom Clean Water, will bring new energy to the effort to identify and remove sources of contamination. This winter we will work with Whatcom County on water quality sampling in the bay as well the lower reaches of California and Dakota creeks in the effort to identify and remove sources of fecal contamination plaguing Drayton Harbor and Portage Bay, Whatcom County’s two commercial shellfish growing areas.
Community outreach continues to be an essential part of the farming day. Our two-month presence at the Bellingham Farmers Market and the Drayton Harbor Days weekend allowed us to connect with community members and talk oysters.
Julie Hirsch’s Salish Sea curriculum program brought over 100 fifth grade students to the Beauty for a floating experience around the sorting table. Having the flupsy moored at gate 3 has brought the farm to Blaine’s back door and generated almost daily discussions with passing recreational and commercial boaters. Other connecting opportunities were the Water Weeks farm tours and the Whatcom Clean Water Community meeting held September 10 in Lynden.
Interns from Bellingham Technical College (BTC) fisheries program continue to play an increasing role in the Drayton Harbor Community Farm. Many of you had the pleasure to meet Jim, Rianna, Jackie and Wyatt; we owe a ton of gratitude to these BTC students for truly going the extra mile in supporting our efforts.
A vision shared with BTC is that the Drayton Harbor Farm becomes a major component of the fisheries program, providing opportunities for students to engage in all aspects of shellfish culture, from water quality sampling, seed production, native oyster restoration, to farming and product sales.
It is not too late to renew your CSA memberships, which may be purchased at the Puget Sound Restoration Fund website restorationfund.org or, easier yet, simply google Drayton Harbor Community Oyster Farm and scroll to the bottom of the page for membership information.
If you have an uneaten oyster balance remaining in your 2013 account, have no fear. We will be carrying this over into the 2014 season. Thanks for your continued support and patients and please do not hesitate to contact me with your question or concerns.