Meet the Growers

These growers will provide a taste of their delectable oysters at the 2019 Pelican Awards and Taste of the Coast on Aug. 3. Get to know the growers from up and down the North Carolina coast as you gear up for this year’s event and be sure to try all the different types of oysters! Because they’re coming from all different parts of the coast, the oysters will all have different “merroir.” Merroir is the term used to describe how oysters and other shellfish reflect the taste of the waters where they are grown. You can learn more about North Carolina oysters and read more in-depth profiles at ncoysters.org

Purchase your ticket today!

Photo courtesy of Ryan Bethea.

Ryan Bethea, Oysters Carolina

Location: Harkers Island
Oyster(s): Native Son Oysters
Oyster’s merroir (how oysters reflect the taste of the waters where they are grown): I’ve heard people describe them as the saltiest they’ve ever had.
Favorite thing about working at an oyster mariculture operation: I take a lot of pride in providing people with fresh, local seafood. My oysters are always harvested on the day they are eaten, and I only sell them in North Carolina.
What did you do before growing oysters? I was a bartender then taught at Terrell Lane Middle School in Franklin County for four years.
Anything else you would like us to know? I am proud to have won the 2016 Oyster of the Year at the North Carolina Seafood Festival Shuck, Rattle and Roll event.
Read a full profile on Ryan at ncoysters.org.
Contact: Ryan Bethea, 252-230-6317, oysterscarolina@gmail.com

Photo courtesy of Tom Cannon.

Tom Cannon, Soundside Oyster Co.

Location: Masonboro Sound
Oyster(s): Masonboro Salt
Oyster’s merroir (how oysters reflect the taste of the waters where they are grown): Salty, buttery and a fresh vegetable and meaty finish
Favorite thing about working at an oyster mariculture operation: Boat rides and providing the most delicious, healthiest protein grown in North Carolina
What did you do before growing oysters? I work with a local furniture company out of Durham called Bull City Designs to source and sell local and foreign sustainably harvested furniture and furniture materials.
Anything else you would like us to know? Featured in a TedTalk with Chuck Weirich and Tom Holbrook
Contact: Tom Cannon, 252-626-9863, tocannon@gmail.comhttps://www.facebook.com/SoundsideOysterFarm/

Photo courtesy of Conor MacNair.

Conor MacNair, N. Sea Oyster Co

Location: Topsail Sound
Oyster(s): Duke’s of Topsail Sound
Oyster’s merroir (how oysters reflect the taste of the waters where they are grown): An open ocean salt hits the nose and pallet strong as soon as the shell hits the lips. It quickly sways the taste buds with pallet cloaking salt and butter flavors, which evolve into a salty, sweet and celery-like vegetable finish.
Favorite thing about working at an oyster mariculture operation: Fulfilling a lifelong dream of being an oyster farmer
What did you do before growing oysters? I earned an undergraduate degree in geological oceanography at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Spent internships working under Hog Island Oyster Company. Worked as local fishmonger during school and while starting the farm.
Anything else you would like us to know? Instagram: @seamacnair, www.nseaoyster.co
Contact: Conor MacNair, conor@nseaoyster.co, 703-328-3565

Photo courtesy of Fletcher O’Neal

Heather and Fletcher O’Neal, Devil Shoal Oyster and Clam Company 

Location: Ocracoke
Oyster(s): Ocracoke Island Salty Devils
Oyster’s merroir (how oysters reflect the taste of the waters where they are grown): Our oysters have moderately high salinity with a sweet finish
Contact: Fletcher O’Neal, fletchersboys@gmail.com, 252-588-0106

Photo courtesy of Morris family

Jimmy and James Morris, Morris Family Shellfish Farms

Location: Sea Level
Oyster(s): Sea Level Salts
Oyster’s merroir (how oysters reflect the taste of the waters where they are grown): Our oysters have a salty but sweet taste of Core Sound. 
Contact: Morris family, millpointaquaculture@gmail.com, 252-342-7451, https://morrisfamilyshellfish.com/

Photo courtesy of First Flight Mariculture

Michael Hucks, Andy Hogan, & Eric Poss, First Flight Mariculture

Location: Bath
Oyster(s): First Flight Oysters
Contact: Mike, mike@firstflightoysters.com, Andy, andy@firstflightoysters.com, Eric, eric@firstflightoysters.com, 704-564-9992, www.firstflightoysters.com

Photo courtesy of Falling Tide Oyster Co.

Keith and Linzy Walls, Falling Tide Oyster Co.

Location: Stump Sound, Topsail Sound, Lea Island
Oyster(s): Carolina Daydreams, Top Seacrets (Arriving Fall 2019), and Lea Island Reserves
Favorite thing about working at an oyster mariculture operation: Seeing all the amazing wildlife and aquatic life on the farms.
What did you do before growing oysters? I (Keith) was an Executive Chef and a Food and Beverage Director for 20 years. I’m currently a Marine Scientist and work as an environmental consultant.
Contact: Keith Walls, 301-536-0698, kwalls.fallingtide@gmail.com, 221 Red Carnation Drive Holly Ridge, NC 28445

Mandy Uticone, Carolina Beach Oyster Company

Photo courtesy of Carolina Beach Oyster Company

Location: Wilmington
Oyster(s): CB Salts
Oyster’s merroir (how oysters reflect the taste of the waters where they are grown): Kiss of crisp ocean brine, firm textured meat finishing with Carolina mineral undertones.
Favorite thing about working at an oyster mariculture operation: Relishing the hard work needed to grow a beautiful and delicious oyster. Seeing the faces of first-time tasters of CB Salts! Also interacting with the ecosystem that an oyster farm creates, you always see cool and exciting fish and other marine life around our oyster farm!
What did you do before growing oysters? I taught marine science for over ten years at Carolina Ocean Studies.
Anything else you would like us to know? All seed, Equipment and Farm layout provided by Hoopers Island Oyster Co. www.hoopersisland.com. Follow Hoopersislandoysters on Instagram.
Contact: Mandy Uticone, 315-651-5741, hoopersnc@gmail.com