The Croxton oyster beds had been lengthy dormant, however in 2002, a brand new technology, Travis and his cousin Ryan Croxton, hatched a brash plan—a return to producing high-quality oysters by embracing modern aquaculture practices. Specialists instructed them it wouldn’t work, that Chesapeake Bay oysters had been an inferior product. They had been proper, at the least at first.
“We killed lots of oysters,” admits Travis, “however we discovered shortly.”
By 2004, that they had oysters of which they may very well be proud. So that they loaded a cooler and headed for Manhattan. “We actually opened the Zagat information to seek out the highest restaurant,” says Travis. They wound up on the supply entrance of Le Bernardin, the seafood shrine of superstar chef Eric Ripert. “I feel they felt sorry for us, however the sous chef cherished the pattern. So that they put our oysters on the menu.”
That type of credential kicks open doorways, and phrase unfold that the Chesapeake Bay was as soon as once more producing oysters match for upscale uncooked bars. Quickly a dozen different producers, typically household operations, had been farming up and down the Bay. In 2004, the Croxtons harvested 3,000 oysters. In 2006 it was 300,000. And in 2019, they hit an astounding 10 million.
Even with these numbers taking an enormous pandemic hit, any person nonetheless has to reap the oysters. Again out on the blustery Rappahannock, the boat drops anchor close to a knot of bobbing buoys. A whole bunch of oyster cages are hidden by the murky water beneath, resting 6 inches off the underside on steel legs. Crew members wield long-handled hooks to fish out a thick rope and wrap it across the boat’s cleats. Cages are mounted at intervals alongside the rope, and the boat’s pole winch swings them aboard, slick and dripping.