Oyster Garden Program

Oyster gardening is an educational program, which uses the process of growing oysters to engage participants in topics like estuarine ecology, shellfish biology, aquaculture regulation, stewardship, public health, natural resource management, and a host of others. Oyster gardening got its start in the Chesapeake Bay region, and has since spread to many other coastal states. Our program here in Maine has been adapted from those developed elsewhere, to meet our particular needs, opportunities, and constraints.

The first classes in the state got under way in March 2004, and our second class of students began in May 2006, with funding support from Maine Sea Grant, the Coastal Program of the Maine State Planning Office, and the Maine Aquaculture Innovation Center . Important partnerships were formed with and/or support was provided by the Damariscotta River Association, the Maine Aquaculture Training Institute (MATI), and the Maine Department of Marine Resources. Dr. Chris Davis of MATI and the Pemaquid Oyster Company is the principal instructor for the class, with MET Extension Associate Dana Morse acting as the program coordinator and field instructor.

Students receive classroom instruction on the basics of oyster culture, including permitting and regulation, public health, equipment, and husbandry. Each student purchases approximately 1000 Eastern Oyster seed and is then responsible for maintaining his or her crop. During the 18-month course, the classes meet approximately monthly, to review progress, share observations, take field trips, and hear from guest speakers. The current class includes nine students from the Damariscotta region, and a small shellfish lease has been secured upriver in the Damariscotta.

One of the goals of the program is to bring oyster gardeners together with opportunities for collaboration with other programs, such as the Maine Phytoplankton Monitoring program and the Pemaquid Oyster Festival.

For more information on this program, contact Dana Morse.