Oysterponds Creek is a pristine tidal creek that winds through remote marshes in the town of Orient on Long Island’s North Fork. Separated from Orient Bay by grasses and dunes, this remarkable estuary empties over 95% of its contents twice a day, bringing food from the headwaters of the creek to the oysters. Then it is replenished by the nutrient-rich water rushing in at over four knots from Orient and Gardiner’s Bay. In the spring, summer, and fall, the creek is alive with multitudes of juvenile fish. Flounder, porgy, striped bass, blackfish, weakfish, blue claw crab, and many other species thrive on the tremendous food supply and relative safety of the creek. The area surrounding this creek, known as “Oysterponds” for centuries, is today much the same as it has always been due to preservation and the stewardship of the land by the family that has owned the creek since the mid-1600’s.
Our oysters are grown out in an off-bottom rack and bag system in about three to four feet of water. The shallow, nutrient-rich water produces a unique taste. In his eponymous oyster tome, Geography of Oysters, Rowan Jacobsen calls them the “epitome of East End oysters. Bright and briny up front, delicate with hints of tannin and iron on the finish.” No doubt, the result of the environment in which they grow. Throughout their time in the creek, the oysters are continuously tumbled and culled. This process produces an oyster with a strong shell, deep cup, and full meat.
Owner Reg Tuthill and marine science professor John Holzapfel started growing oysters in the creek in 2001 as an aquaculture science project. Over the next couple of years, they grew enough oysters to start selling in New York City and locally, quickly building a following of loyal customers. The Oysterponds Shellfish Company was born. With the addition of key personnel the company has continued to grow, and is now distributing nationwide with enough oyster stock to meet the demands of the market. Oysterponds Shellfish Company is dedicated to producing oysters of the highest quality and freshness, maintaining a consistent year round supply.
The 55-acre estuary where the oysters grow is surrounded by nature on every side. Marshes and wetlands surround the creek and provide critical nutrients and shelter to “the farm” and act as filters for rain run-off. This wetland is a part of the Gardiener’s Bay Estuary System, designated by the Nature Conservancy as one of the world’s last ten unspoiled places. It has always been our goal to tread lightly. Oysterponds is sustainable and self-replenishing, and great for the environment. Everything is done by hand, from seeding to harvesting. No boats, no dredges, all by hand. As Reg says, “We maintain the garden and do our work, our Partner upstairs will do the rest.”