Located out in Charleston, Qualman Oyster Farms was established in 1937 and at that time it was the only oyster farm in town. Its current owner, Larry Qualman, took over the business in 1962 and is an oyster farming veteran. Through the pictures (below), you get a sense of Larry’s fondness for oyster farming and the hard work that goes into it.
For those who do not know, most oysters are not harvested from the wild (which I thought…clueless Willamette Valley girl right here!) Oysters are actually grown from seeds. These seeds are created from larvae oysters that attach to oyster shells. In the past, Qualman oysters used to buy their seeds from Miyage, Japan. However, now they are able produce their own.
When the seeds are ready, they are set on top of the stake, in a small groove attached by wires. The stakes are then planted up the South Slough where it takes about 24-30 months to grow the oyster. There is no particular “oyster season” as they can be grown all year round. Afterward, the oysters are harvested and brought back to the facility. There, his staff will separate and shuck them. Qualman oysters are unique in that they are all hand grown, handpicked and local. Since the oysters grow out in the South Slough sanctuary, they taste a bit different than oysters harvested from the bay. The water at the sanctuary is away from houses so the water is clean and pristine. Larry describes them as nice, sweet, and the best oysters out there.
When asked about what he likes most about oyster farming, it’s very simple, he likes getting up early at low tide, heading up the slough, watching the birds and checking on the oysters. It’s a simple life but one that contributes to the economic backbone of Charleston.