Sweet Neck Oysters from Martha's Vineyard
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Available for a limited time only.
Farmer: Jack Blake
Location: Katama Bay, Martha’s Vineyard MA
Size: 2.5"- 3"
How they’re grown: Sweet Neck’s operation is elaborately engineered (all by Jack), completely green, and carried out on two separate floating platforms: one wind-powered raft for tumbling market-size oysters, and the other a propeller-based upweller. Jack purchases seed from Maine and places it in stainless steel and mesh cages that he welds himself, which are lowered into plankton-rich water. The 2 propeller system can move up to 55 gallons of water through the upweller at a time, continuously feeding the oysters. After about 10 weeks, they’re moved to colder, deeper waters to continue their grow-out for anywhere between 15-36 months, getting tumbled regularly in a wind-powered device of Jack’s designing. Regular tumbling creates beautiful, deep, sturdy shells that are power washed for a squeaky clean exterior. Jack says “ it gives me joy to build stuff like this, but it also brings me comfort to sell a nice looking oyster”.
How they taste: Consistency is the defining characteristic of Sweet Necks. They’re clean and fresh with balanced brine and a hint of sweetness at the end, like rainwater or sweet apple. Jack prefers his with just two drops of lemon...simple.
Why they’re unique: A 45-minute boat ride across the sound and a quick trip across the island brings you to Katama Bay, on the south side of Martha’s Vineyard, nestled between Edgartown and Chappaquiddick. The Bay has two inlets: water enters from the Vineyard sound in the Edgartown channel, and from the Atlantic through the Katama inlet, which changes in size frequently running on a 10-15-year cycle. It can range from a wide opening to completely closed. The area is a shell fisherman's paradise, with oysters, clams, and crabs (Katama was a Wampanoag word for crab fishing place). There are 13 farms in Katama Bay, each with a 1-acre lease. As upheld by local law, only 1% of Katama Bay can be utilized for shellfishing.
Story: Jack has been referred to as a ‘godfather of aquaculture’ out on the vineyard. He was one of 15 people who started the Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group’s aquaculture program in 1995, farming oysters with gear he built in his garage. Jack hails from Marshfield, MA, and came to the island when he was 16 in search of a job, spending time building houses, fishing commercially, and growing quahogs--which is where the name Sweet Neck comes from. Jack’s commitment to aquaculture and his farm is nothing short of remarkable and inspiring, especially the advancements his ‘work smarter not harder’ attitude has brought him. In 2019, Jack’s pal Dan was officially added to the farm’s license after being Jack’s right-hand man for several years. Jack is set to take over the farm as Jack transitions into retirement when he’s ready.