An Art and Science
Oyster farming is both and art and science. It can be full of uncertainty and risk; weather, disease and the effects of climate change are all factors affecting individual farmers who are custodians of and dependent upon the natural environment.
Oyster farming is also a way of life, a life style and a living.
The oyster industry historically has been a cottage industry with individual farmers operating leases over crown land within a single estuary. This has placed individual farmers in a historic position of competing with each other at local or regional seafood markets while simultaneously also being interdependent and sharing the natural commons of a river estuary.
History and lived experience has shown those farmers who collaborate can demonstrably improve production and gain better prices for their oysters. Time and time again, collaboration, farm and farmer resilience is the lived wisdom of how to respond to the complexities and uncertainties of the natural world and market volatility. While science and data are important, science also tells us no amount of big data or predictive analytics can prepare us for the unpredictable. That is simply the characteristic of social and natural systems.
Being smart about oysters and oyster farming is not to seek to build big data and large predictive analytic systems by applying 20th Century industrial age thinking to small crop farming; but to recognise an oyster farmer and oyster farming for who and what it is; complex, full of emergent systems requiring just the right amount of data for someone with passion and knowledge to apply their craft – so we all can enjoy an individual farmer’s labour of love.
An oyster farmer after all is a highly skilled, passionate artisan and custodian. And we and the natural environmental are all the better for this.