Sen. Tom Carper, D-Delaware, sat down with oyster farmers Aug. 31, when they pushed for more marketing help.
Delaware oysters, with their salty taste, are a popular commodity in the Cape Region, but don’t have a far reach beyond the Eastern Shore boundaries.
Carol Friend of Friends Clams & Oysters was one of several oyster farmers who met with Carper at the University of Delaware campus in Lewes asking for help to get the word out about Delaware oysters.
“If people don’t ask for them, it limits it,” she said. “You’ve got to be able to sell the product.”
Oyster farmers, many of whom are small business owners, must harvest and sell their product to pay the state for leases, leaving little money left to market their oysters.
“We’re fighting that battle of getting our name out there and getting that market,” said Jesse Atkinson, owner of Delaware Delicious Oysters.
While he said he has an opportunity to expand to Wilmington’s Riverfront restaurant scene, he would still like more visibility throughout the region.
“I would love to get into D.C., Baltimore and Philly,” he said.
Alan Davis, owner of Arrowhead Point Oysters, said small companies have added difficulty in providing a steady supply of oysters that some restaurant chains expect.
“This has become a volume issue, so we can expand,” he said.
Carper listened to the concerns before trying some local oysters at an area restaurant.
“Supporting oyster aquaculture is a win-win for Delaware,” he said.
Carper is a cosponsor of the Sustaining Healthy Ecosystems, Livelihoods, and Local Seafood Act, which would establish an Office of Aquaculture at the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help aquaculture producers take advantage of USDA programs, provide technical assistance and elevate aquaculture issues within USDA.