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MOM’s Organic Market has established its own oyster farm on leased ocean-bottom acreage off Fleets Island, Va., thereby adding the mollusk to its roster of sustainable seafood offerings. The endeavor aligns with the company's involvement in the conservancy and restoration of Chesapeake Bay.
The Rockville, Md.-based grocer collaborated on the oyster farm project with Environmental Working Group, which assisted with research, and the Oyster Recovery Partnership, which trained staff and will help MOM's with oyster shell recycling. To support the groups' continuing work, MOM’s will donate 5 percent of store sales to the Oyster Recovery Partnership on Friday, Dec. 5.
MOM's Oyster Farm aims to increase the number of oysters in the bay, as the creatures serve the important purposes of filtering its water and aiding in the restoration of the environment.
Oysters by the Dozen
"We started with 500,000 oyster spat in spring of 2013," recalled MOM's founder Scott Nash. "Through trials and tribulations, we've learned about soft mud bottom versus firm sandy bottom, how ocean currents impact oyster growth, how often oysters need to be culled and moved to larger cages, and floating cages versus bottom cages. This year, the mortality rate of our oysters was 80 percent, higher than average rates, but these were important lessons to learn, and we are confident that of the 500,000 oyster spat we started this past spring, we will have most of them available for sale by September 2015."
Once an abundant, reasonably priced source of protein, oysters have since faced declining populations in areas like Chesapeake Bay, and their price has risen accordingly. MOM's goal is to use its direct-trade oyster farm to make oysters affordable; the grocer plans to offer them at a price of $14 for two dozen.
The oysters will be sampled and sold at the grand opening of MOM's Washington, D.C., store -- the chain’s 12th location in the Washington-Baltimore-Philadelphia area -- on Nov. 14-16, as well as at its Rockville and Alexandria, Va., markets. Additionally, MOM's will accept oyster shells at these locations for responsible recycling through the Oyster Recovery Partnership.