Barnegat Bay, New Jersey, may be less than two hours from Manhattan, but for oysterman Matthew Gregg, who used to work in New York City, the difference can’t be described in terms of miles.
“There’s a rediscovered nobility in farming. As a frustrated 20-something I was looking for something different to do,” Gregg says. “Starting an oyster farm was the answer.”
Before starting Forty North Oyster Farms four years ago, Gregg, 31, worked at the well-known William Morris Endeavor talent agency, but wasn’t feeling fulfilled.
He admits it’s a “big scenery change,” but says he still uses his expertise from his old job – branding, marketing and communication skills – in his current occupation.
Forty North, named after the latitude at which this 11-acre subtidal oyster farm is located, grows Eastern Oysters (Crassostrea Virginica). During the high season, from May through September, Gregg has between five and eight people working on the farm.
For generations, the Mid-Atlantic states provided an abundance of oysters for America’s ravenous appetite for the bivalve, but by the 1950s, due to overharvesting, the industry had collapsed. Forty North Oyster Farms and others in the region are helping bring back the mighty oyster to its proper place in the local ecosystem and on the plate.
While Gregg’s parents and grandparents weren’t farmers, he does have farming in his blood (from both sides of his family), but his ancestors’ agricultural pursuits were of the terrestrial variety. Yes, Gregg’s farming takes place underwater, but there are still similarities between what he does and agriculture done on dry land, he says.
“We maintain private grounds and operate just like a land farm. Animal husbandry, intensive manual labor and environmental stewardship are all a huge part of our farm,” says Gregg.
He feels that with the paradigm shift in the way food is produced, and the resulting response by purveyors to customer demand, we must approach sustainability in a smarter way.
“As we see more and more certifications, let’s use logic,” he says. “While an organic piece of fruit from the other side of the world may seem like a step forward, it still required the burning of fossil fuels. Know your farmer! Know your food!”
Photos courtesy of www.fortynorthoysters.com
Farmers, want to take over our Instagram feed for a few weeks? Shoot us an email at [email protected]