July 17, 2015
“A rising tide floats all boats.”
Oyster entrepreneur Donald Merry spends his time perfecting the work and science of oyster farming in Duxbury, Massachusetts. His Merry Oyster Company is a success story spanning 15 years. Recently, Captain Dave Bill, Director of Nautical Science at Tabor Academy in Marion, Massachusetts was contacted by Merry due to a legacy family connection with Tabor Academy and an article Merry recently read about the Tabor Oyster Farm. Don invited Captain Dave to spend an afternoon on the farm and here are some excerpts from their conversation about oysters and life.
Profession: Oyster Farmer
Favorite quotes: “A rising tide floats all boats.” and “A lazy man works twice as hard.”
Dog’s name: Tashmoo
Location: Duxbury Bay, Massachusetts
CDB: What was it about the Tabor Oyster Farm that got your attention?
DM: My father, my uncle, my brother and I all attended Tabor so we get Tabor Today. I read the article about the Tabor Oyster Farm and I thought, what a perfect place to do that. I can’t think of another high school that has a Marine Science facility and program like Tabor Academy.
CDB: What’s a valuable lesson you’ve learned through your commercial oyster growing business?
DM: After 15 years of growing oysters, I am always still trying out new things just like you do at Tabor. I have to explore and document new things so you can keep track of the results. You can learn a lot through experimentation. This is a new industry, if you figure things out, it helps the next guy and the industry as a whole.
CDB: How did you get into the oyster aquaculture business
DM: I grew up in family of cranberry growers. As a kid Duxbury bay was my playground. Everyday now I pinch myself when I think that am able to make a living from a place that love to be. I started off my professional career as a salesman for Northstar loran marine navigation. I then started and ran my own retail seafood market in Duxbury for a number of years. I was burning out of the demands of a retail business so I sold my fish market and launched my oyster growing operation. I am personally motivated every day with the continuous effort to build a better mousetrap.
CDB: Traditionally, fishermen are known to be secretive and possessive. How is oyster farming a different way of harvesting seafood?
DM: Wild harvesting is every man for himself. Farming is different (than wild harvesting) because the growers are part of a community that shares ideas, successes and failures. It is a much nicer way to live than every man for himself.
CDB: How do you approach the challenges of long-term commercial oyster farming?
DM: Lots of dirt farm principals apply to oyster farming except you really have to prepare for two bad years because it takes two years to grow oysters for market. I learned a lot from my family’s cranberry business. You really need to get ready for winter in July. From experience you learn things you can do in the short term to safeguard yourself from long-term catastrophe. Like dirt farming a lot is in the hands of Mother Nature so some of what happens is out of your hands.
CDB: How long do you plan to grow oysters?
DM: I believe that there is a huge future in growing seafood. The demand for oysters is an exploding phenom. What challenges me is to develop mechanism and process to make oyster growing easier. My yields continue to improve from year to year and the market demand is increasing. I can’t see myself not doing it. I love reaping what you sow.
-Captain Dave Bill
All photos courtesy of Captain Dave Bill. To read more from Captain Dave about Boats and Life visit www.boatsandlife.com