Over the last ten years, oyster farming in New Hampshire (NH) has experienced a remarkable surge, and the New Hampshire Shellfish Farmers Initiative has played a crucial role in expanding the industry’s scope within the state. Leading this charge is Kelsey, a devoted coordinator, supported by a passionate group of local oyster farmers. Their collective focus revolves around fostering a sense of community, engaging in outreach endeavors, promoting education, and advocating for sustainable practices within the oyster farming community. This initiative is dedicated to raising awareness about the flourishing oyster aquaculture industry along New Hampshire’s estimated 18-mile coastline. With 14 active farming businesses and a total membership of about 20, the New Hampshire Shellfish Farmers Initiative diligently works to advance the industry and foster meaningful connections among stakeholders.
The group was formed in 2020 with the help of NH Sea Grant and Kelsey became the coordinator of the group about a year later in December 2020. Kelsey, whose research focuses on studying the influence of green crabs on wild and aquacultured oysters, eagerly embraced the position. Since her arrival, the initiative has had the capacity and bandwidth to enhance its efforts and structure.
Progressing towards a Non-Profit
Presently, the New Hampshire Shellfish Farmers Initiative is in the process of transforming into a fully-fledged non-profit. By achieving non-profit status, they will be able to accept grants, donations, and other financial support, which will further strengthen their initiatives and activities. Most importantly, this new designation will also empower them to lobby on behalf of the industry and engage with legislators to voice their opinions on relevant bills, regulations, and several critical challenges faced by oyster farmers in the region. One significant hurdle oyster farmers in New Hampshire face is infrastructure, such as a lack of docks for commercial use, which can hinder the efficiency of day-to-day farming operations. The group is strongly working towards this and is already making progress.
Ongoing and Planned Endeavors
The New Hampshire Shellfish Farmers Initiative spearheads numerous initiatives designed to foster community engagement, education, and environmental restoration. Notably, they organize the annual New Hampshire Oyster Week, a collaborative effort involving local breweries and restaurants that showcase oysters and offer consumers opportunities to interact directly with farmers. This week-long event builds connections and raises awareness about the local oyster industry. Their next Oyster week will be September 17th-23rd.
Additionally, the initiative recently partnered with the Seacoast Science Center at their summer concert series to educate and increase awareness of NH oyster aquaculture among the broader community.
Collaborations and Community Involvement
While the initiative does not have formal volunteers, they actively engage in community work themselves. They work closely with The Nature Conservancy, NH Sea Grant, University of New Hampshire, and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (and more) on several research projects and restoration work. They’ve also participated in beach clean-ups with New Hampshire Surf Rider Foundation and have partnered with local breweries and restaurants to create unique products and offerings that raise awareness in a fun and engaging way.
Summing up, the New Hampshire Shellfish Farmers Initiative has emerged as a driving force and advocate for oyster farming in the state. As the initiative continues to bridge the gap between producers and consumers, their efforts ensure a sustainable and prosperous future for oyster farming in the region. With each passing year, their impact grows, leaving a lasting legacy that will benefit the industry and the community for generations to come.
For more information about New Hampshire Shellfish Farmers Initiative, their work, individual farms, and more visit https://nhsfi.com/.