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Shellfish Farming Across Generations

Shellfish farms cover 70,000 acres in Connecticut's coastal waters

 

HARTFORD -- Did you know Connecticut produces the world's best oysters? Or that the eastern oyster is the state's designated state shellfish?  Most Nutmeggers do not. Nor do they know that, together with clams, blue mussels and bay scallops, oysters provide the base for a multimillion dollar farming enterprise in Connecticut. Today, more than 70,000 acres of shellfish farms are under cultivation in Connecticut's coastal waters... farms that harvest millions of pounds of oysters, clams and other shellfish every year from Long Island Sound and the lower Connecticut River.

The cultivation, propagation and harvesting of clams and oysters along the state's 250-mile coastline is often a family affair. Case in point is Norm Bloom and Son in Norwalk. Owned by Norman Bloom and operated in conjunction with his son, daughter and wife, among others, the business was established in the late 1940s by Bloom's father and uncle. Bloom has been involved since the late 1970s.

Explaining that shellfish farming is a year-round business in Connecticut, Bloom noted Norm Bloom and Son harvests approximately 200 bushels of clams and eastern, aka bluepoint, oysters per day.

"Most people don't realize that Connecticut shellfish farming is not confined to warm weather months," he observed. "Although local oysters are most prevalent during the months containing the letter 'r' [i.e. September, January, March], they are available year-round, as are clams. But in July, when the oysters are spawning, clams dominate."

In addition to owning Norm Bloom and Son, Bloom is a partner in Dolan Brothers Shellfish in Branford. Co-owner Art Dolan indicated his company works year-round as well, netting an average 300 bushels of hard clams and 100-150 bushels of oysters per week. Dolan's venture is also multi-generational; it was founded by his father and uncle about five decades ago.

Dolan concentrates on hard-shell or round clam - commonly known as quahog - farming, harvesting several varieties, including littlenecks, topnecks, cherrystones, and the larger chowders. Yet he is especially proud of the international acclaim afforded Connecticut's bluepoint oyster.

"According to oyster connoisseurs, the bluepoint is the world's premium oyster," he stated. "The bluepoint has a distinct flavor, the result of the Sound's mixture of fresh and salt water. This difference in the water creates a much better taste." 

Originally published in Connecticut's Backyard, the e-newsletter of CT Agricultural Business Cluster. Visit their website for more information.

Copyright 2008 SimonPure Productions, LLC

Working the Land: The Story of Connecticut Agriculture
is a Co-Production of
SimonPure Productions and Connecticut Humanities Council

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