Who is OysterMom?
How Tallahassee’s ‘Oyster Mom,’ is leading the first sustainable oyster farm in the entire Gulf Region.
As a founding farmer in the Florida oyster aquaculture business, OysterMom has been bringing fresh oysters to Tallahassee and surrounding areas of the Florida panhandle since 2016.
Deborah Keller aka OysterMom was captivated by the idea of revitalizing the local oyster industry. In the last few decades, the world-famous wild oyster population of Apalachicola has collapsed, restoration programs were failing, and she saw a way to be part of a better and a greener launch into Florida’s own oyster aquaculture industry. “I wanted to see this essential animal back in our bays–filtering water and creating habitat–just as much as I longed for that unmistakable flavor of an Apalachee Bay oyster,” said Keller.
OysterMom also offers hands on training to others who have gone on to secure leases and start their own oyster farming businesses. It is about nurturing the future as well as oysters!
She offers presentations on oyster farming to local civic organizations. OysterMom is also the founding co-chair of the FL Shellfish Aquaculture Association and a board member representing FL on the East Coast Shellfish Aquaculture Association.
Creating a sustainable food source requires a major shift from hunting to cultivating. Farmed oysters are spawned in hatcheries and tended in nurseries, drastically increasing their rate of survival during their most vulnerable stages of development.
Keller purchases young oysters by the thousands which are about 6mm in size and ‘plants’ them in floating cages located on her 1.5-acre lease in Oyster Bay, FL. The oysters grow naturally in the cage systems which are specially designed to provide the oysters shelter from harsh weather conditions and protection from predators. She carefully manages the fluctuating needs of the oysters as they grow, eventually providing a beautiful and fully developed oyster.
Feeding on the nutrient rich waters of Oyster Bay, the fastest growing oysters may be ready for harvest in 8 months. Others may take as long as 18 months to grow to market size.
This practice of farming rather than the harvesting wild oyster populations has not only brought a continuous food supply of oysters but has managed to do so in the most sustainable and ecologically conscious ways available. With a lower carbon footprint, little land and water occupancy, no resource depletion, and a continuously expanding knowledge of species and new farming practices, aquaculture is the wave of the future.