Meet Your Farmers


Melanie Douglass

Melanie Douglass

“I’m not sure anyone ever says that they want to be an oyster farmer when they grow up, but it is one of the accomplishments that I am most proud of. Being a lifelong resident of the North Fork and a special education teacher at the same school I graduated from, oyster farming gives me one more way to give back to my community and the environment.” Melanie grew up working on the water with her family’s business, Douglass Marine.  She continued her education at SUNY Maritime College earning an undergraduate degree in meteorology and oceanography with a minor in environmental science.  At Dowling College, she earned a masters in special education.  After a five-year stint as a fish farmer, she has found her home at Greenport Public Schools and with the Peconic Pearls.

Contact Information: Douglass@gufsd.org

Jim Markow

Jim began working on hard clam harvest boats in Great South Bay when he was 18.  He bought his first boat, the "Billo" when he was in his twenties. He began Aeros Cultured Oyster Company in 1997. He is a founding member and President of the Noank Aquaculture Cooperative.  He has put together all of the boats he uses for oyster cultivation on the Mystic River, grows the coveted Mystic oyster and makes sure our equipment and buildings are running smoothly.

Steve Plant

Steve Plant

I am a lifelong resident of Connecticut and spent the better part of my youth fishing on LI Sound.  My dad was a biology teacher in Stamford and gave me my earliest taste of the marine environment.  I spent the first 15 years of my professional life on Wall Street at a couple of the world’s most successful hedge funds.  I spent two years as a commodity analyst under Mike Aronstein at West Course Capital. At West Course I did some venture capital analysis on several aquaculture investments thanks to my interest in fishing and fisheries.  I eventually took a job at one of them.  Through sheer chance, I ended up meeting Jim Markow in the spring of 1999 and started CT Cultured Oysters shortly thereafter.

Contact Information:  steveplant@CT-Oysters.com

Karen with Argo

Karen Rivara

Karen was inspired to be a Marine Biologist while watching the “Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau” on television when she was twelve. She graduated from Southampton College. LIU in 1981 with a degree in Marine Science.

She began working at the Shinnecock Tribe Oyster Project in 1983 as a Research Technician for Dr. Robert Malouf, MSRC, SUNY Stony Brook. That is where Karen fell in love with shellfish farming. She has worked in commercial hatcheries, including the Bluepoints Company hatchery, in West Sayville as well as the Shinnecock hatchery.

Karen is president of Aeros Cultured Oyster Company, Inc., a company she and her business partner, Jim Markow began in 1994 as a hatchery in the basement of his house. She moved the hatchery to Shellfisher Preserve, a Peconic Land Trust property, in Southold in 2004 after setting up the Noank Cooperative hatchery in Noank, CT. She is a founding member of the Noank Aquaculture Cooperative (2000), East End Marine Farmers Association (2001) and the East Coast Shellfish Growers Association (2002). She is the current president of the Long Island Farm Bureau.

Karen was drawn to shellfish mariculture because it is very satisfying to produce something she has grown from a fertilized egg. She also hopes that this work will help make the Long Island Estuaries she works in more productive.

Contact Information: keeno59@optonline.net

Ben Gonzalez and Dave Daly

Southold Bay Oysters began as a small hobby when Ben and Dave joined the Cornell Cooperative Extension's Suffolk Project in Aquaculture Training (SPAT) to learn how to grow oysters. After two years of tending to their floating bags containing hundreds of baby oysters, they enjoyed their first harvest and began shucking their bounty at dinner parties and family events.  

 

In hopes of moving into a commercial oyster farm, Ben and Dave applied for a 10-acre aquaculture site through the Suffolk County Aquaculture Lease Program. After completing the application process and obtaining numerous required permits, Southold Bay Oysters began growing their first crop of commercial oysters in 2016. Throughout the first growing season, the greenhorn oystermen attended to their oyster cages using a retrofitted 19' Mako scallop boat named El Pulpo that they purchased from a retired local bayman. Much of the process was figured out along the way with the helpful advice of other local oyster growers.

2017 was the first commercial harvest for Southold Bay Oysters. Ben and Dave attend events around the North Fork to showcase their local oysters, known as Southold Shindigs.

Contact Information: ben@southoldbayoysters.com



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