Last week while vacationing on Dauphin Island, I found myself on the deck of our beach house looking out on the beautiful waters of the Mississippi Sound. A man on the beach was doing what appeared to be some sort of outlandish workout. I watched from the distance and saw he was doing more than just that, he was picking up crates from the water and emptying something out. My curiosity got the best of me and I grabbed my camera and my laptop and went to ask him some questions.
Now I have heard of farming AND agriculture but never Oyster Aquaculture. Well, that is exactly what Tyler Myers of Massacre Island Oysters does. He is in the business of oysters. He also refers to it as Off Bottom Farming. As I walked nearer to him hauling a platform housed on four inflatable wheels I was greeted happily by a big smile and an open heart, ready to inform me about his life and his work.
Tyler is a glowing young man who lives on the beach with his wife and newborn baby. They have two dogs, one named Biscuit and the other named Gravy. And as if that wasn’t enough, they have a cat named Flapjack! Needless to say they must be breakfast lovers! I could tell right away I was going to like this guy.
Tyler grew up in Mobile, Alabama and was always interested in farming. He was always intrigued by this idea of making something out of nothing. When he was 15 he joined a restoration project to help save the reefs. This was one of the main influencers of his career. During his time restoring the reefs he found out he loved raising oysters and doing something worthwhile.
Tyler graduated from Auburn University with a degree in Fisheries and Aquaculture. Like all graduates he struggled to land a job and then had a light bulb go off in his head. He realized what he needed to do. In June 2015, he used all the money he had been saving since high school and decided to go off on a new venture in his life and hasn’t looked back since.
Looking out on the water all I saw was floating black containers and to me I assumed it was just that. My best assumption was that it could have been crab traps. Tyler informed me that there were 216,000 oysters out there in the “floating black containers”. That isn’t an embellished number. He sells them in bulk to customers with the lowest numbers of oysters per sale being 100 oysters per sale. His clientele consists of anywhere from 4 star restaurants to local buyers and festivals. The difference is the restaurants tend to want a certain size of oyster between 2.5 inches and 3.25 inches. He said that the shuck houses take the larger ones. Essentially, the old adage different strokes for different folks applies when it comes to oysters. The ones you get at a restaurant are the smaller sizes and the ones from the market may be larger.
An oyster can take up to 3 years to fully develop, but they usually are ready to go in about nine months. He goes out during April and May to take them out of the water, clean them, and then sell them. Some may take until August, so he has another harvest at that time. He tries to get them out by winter because that isn’t the best time for them to grow.
Tyler really was full of information and I felt I could have talked to him forever about this. One of the main things that I took away from the conversation wasn’t a plethora of oyster facts but the inspiration of a man who is doing what he wants and seems to be loving it. He works anywhere from 5-12 hours a day depending and has aspirations to grow his company to reach a broader audience. Although he is happy and loves what he does he isn’t just standing still, he is trying to grow his potential every day and that is inspiring and is what drew me to his story.
I would like to thank Tyler for allowing me to interview him on the beach while he was working. If you have any questions or want more information feel free to email Tyler at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his websites linked below
Twitter: https://twitter.com/MIORoystersInstagram: https://www.instagram.com/massacreislandoysters/
Written by Josh McCausland
Photography by Josh McCausland
Edited by Debbie Naylor