Sea Farming in Rhode Island - #AvoidPollen in the Ocean State
"This dog's name is Clamcake, you don't get more Rhode Island than that," explains Steve Medgyesy, who handles marketing and quality control for Walrus and Carpenter Oysters at Point Judith on the Rhode Island coast. It's the biggest fishing port in the state and is home to the Block Island Ferry. Surrounded by blue collar sea hands in the number one squid port in the nation, the seven year-old sustainable sea farm feels at times a little out of place. When I walk up to their operation I'm surprised to hear Weezer's "Say it Aint So" cranking away on the shop speakers. "We're the kooks here," says Medgyesy "This place, Rhode Island engine is pretty fucking crazy," he says of their next door neighbors, ”Wicked blue collar dudes who smoke a ton of cigs and fix massive engines."
"We just forayed into kelp farming to add diversity to our portfolio." A move that separates them even more from the traditions of the port in Galillee, RI.
The company operates a six acre lease in Ninigret, the largest salt pond in the south of the state and distributes to 40 restaurants in the Rhode Island, Manhattan and and Brooklyn. "A lot of the time, you're in God's country, we even do a farm dinner series. We partner with the best restaurants in the state," explains Medgyesy, "We actually have Blue Hill, which is a really famous restaurant in New York. They'll come out and have dinner for 36 on a sand bar."
After hitting the most northern stop on my 2016 #AvoidPollen tour, I spent Wednesday night in Newport, "America's Society Capital" and home to the renowned jazz festival. Mansions overlook the rocky coastline around the typically pricey destination, but hotels are cheap this time of year and it made for a nice spot to make the turnaround. Thursday morning I packed up my stuff for the return trip south, venturing through the island of Jamestown and down to the Connecticut border.
My stop at Walrus and Carpenter office concludes with sampling of "Shuckolate," a chocolate-oyster stout from Foolproof Brewing Company, who has partnered with the unlikely farmers to create a surprisingly excellent beverage. After educating me on the in and outs of their lives in the New England state, I return the favor with insights about the Confederate flag, covering a KKK rally this summer and life in South Carolina.
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