Not sure if you’ve noticed the small raft with what looks like a box on it off the beach at Eastville, in Oak Bluffs. A curious site. It happens to be the home of Cottage City Oysters.
In May of 2015, Dan & Greg Martino started Cottage City Oysters with 50,000 oyster seeds (a small amount compared to most Vineyard oyster farms). Originally, the brothers were expecting to harvest their oysters in Fall of 2016, but an easy Winter allowed for the oysters to grow well early in the Spring.
A great surprise, since Cottage City is currently the only oyster farm on Martha’s Vineyard whose home is in the open ocean, which leaves them more susceptible to the unpredictable weather.
I was lucky enough to meet up with the brothers and go out to where the oysters are grown. What an “office” they have.
Leaving from the dock at the Lagoon, in Babe, their oyster boat, and off we went out to their farm. We went under the new bridge, which looks good from below too, and took the short trip out to their raft.
Greg and Dan are so knowledgeable about the waters and their space. They currently have a two acre lot for Cottage City, with 50 oyster cages but hope to grow to 100 next year. There’s room for more but they want to stay small and manageable.
Each Cottage City oyster is hand picked and cleaned on the sorting table (on the raft off the beach). The whole operation there is solar powered, which is pretty cool. Dan & Greg have one of the smaller oyster farms on the Island. Still new to the business, they’re taking their time, and really working on the quality of these little bivalves.
Cottage City Oysters are currently available at Net Result and can be purchased for private events. The goal is to grow enough to have them in restaurants in 2017.
What’s so interesting about Cottage City Oysters is the flavor. The water is not a small bay, like Katama Bay (home to many of the Vineyard’s oyster farms), and it’s colder. So, I found that there is a big difference in taste. Dan shucked me one right there, on the raft!
I felt like this was a pretty special experience. This oyster was literally just plucked from the water and shucked for me. The oyster had a beautiful shell and was salty at the first taste but finished smooth. I love a salty brine, and was a big fan.
First, this project has brought the brothers together in a way they couldn’t conceive of. They handle all aspects of the business together, and really work well together. Second, they are both really fond of this business, the creating of something that really brings joy to people and being farmers on the water together and growing something to be proud of.
In addition to the delicious oysters they’re growing — which are making the waters by Eastville Beach cleaner everyday, since the oysters filter 50 gallons of water, eating the algae, removing nitrogen from the water — the oyster farm is a part of the Island community.
Dan and Greg have become so involved in the aquaculture of the Island. Their community involvement ranges from beach cleanups, to education, to mentorships and community events. For them, it’s important to share this process and experience with others, especially the youth of the Island.
The mission of Cottage City Oysters is simple: Provide the best oysters in the most eco-friendly, sustainable way. We strive to do this while providing education and support to our local community.
In addition, the brothers have and continue to partner with Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group on projects. One of the latest is the testing of an oyster cage treated with an environmentally friendly silicone paint that deters the growth of algae and other things that farmers would otherwise have to keep cleaning off the cage. So far so good. The cage is definitely cleaner.
Cottage City Oysters is a welcome addition to the oyster scene and farm community on Martha’s Vineyard.