Maryland-farmed oysters, wine, champagne, and beer—what more do you need to satisfy the soul on a late January afternoon?
You can have them all and Smith Island cake too at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s second annual Oysters and Wine on the Eastern Shore. The event takes place from 2 to 5 p.m. on Sunday, January 27 at the Eastern Shore Conservation Center in Easton. Tickets are $35 and advance registration is required because the event is expected to sell out.
This year’s event will feature oysters from three Maryland oyster farms—Chestertown’s Orchard Point Oyster Company, Tilghman’s Fisherman’s Daughter Oysters, and Toddville’s Honga Oyster Company.
All three businesses are part of the state’s burgeoning oyster farming industry. The industry grew from a nascent start in Maryland less than a decade ago when upstart operations produced about 4,000 bushels of farmed oysters in 2012. That number has since ballooned to more than 64,000 bushels from oyster farms in 2016, according to the latest annual harvest data released by the state’s Department of Natural Resources.
Oyster farming presents an alternative model to Maryland’s long tradition of watermen scouring for wild oysters from the Chesapeake Bay’s public bottom. Watermen with farming businesses lease acres of the Bay bottom from the state to plant and grow their oysters. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation believes expanding the model can reduce harvest pressure on the state’s dwindling native oyster population and help it recover.
Since 1999, the oyster population in Maryland’s portion of the Bay has declined from about 600 million oysters to the current population of 300 million, according to the state’s new oyster stock assessment released in November. Wild oyster harvests continue to significantly outpace harvests from aquaculture operations—for example, about 224,000 bushels were harvested from public bottom in 2016, nearly four times the amount from oyster farms.
The January 27 event will celebrate locally farmed oysters by pairing them with a variety of wines, champagne, and local craft beer. There will also be hors d’oeuvres and live music. Oyster farmers and scientists will be on hand to answer attendees’ questions. The Eastern Shore Conservation Center is at 114 South Washington St. in Easton.