Rebekah has always loved being on the water. Her grandfather had a 10 acre oyster farm near her home. She grew up clamming and getting oysters to earn a little extra money. After coming back from college, she began working at a restaurant called Sammy's, and she soon learned that the owner, Sammy Boyd, also had an oyster garden. Mr. Boyd had grown up in the fishing industry - from catching, to cleaning, to selling the seafood to local restaurants, to later owning his own restaurants. Sammy encouraged Rebekah with her dream of starting a business farming oysters. In 2016, she officially obtained a lease from the state of North Carolina, and in 2017 began buying “seed oysters” (tiny oysters as small as 1 millimeter that are raised from larval oysters). Once fully grown, her first oysters were sold to one of Sammy’s other local restaurants called Southern Salt located in Morehead City, NC. She now supplies oysters to restaurants all over the Carolinas. Rebekah hopes to continue expanding in order to provide a year-round product across the United States.
From humble beginnings... Seed oysters are grown in very controlled conditions. They are placed in mesh bags (around 4000 per bag). The bags are then strung together and placed in the oyster garden in rows. It takes around one full year for a seed oyster to grow to market size. In that year, the oysters will need to be tumbled multiple times in order to knock excess growth off the lip of the oyster so that it can grow a deeper cup.
The bags of oysters need to be split as the oysters grow, and since the oysters grow at different rates, they are graded by size. The bags have to be cleaned and bag sizes changed out to allow the constant flow of nutrient-rich water through the bags. This is a labor-intensive process, and many oysters are lost along the way. By the time the oysters make it to market, there will be anywhere from 150 to 200 oysters per bag. Maintenance on the oyster beds is frequent, and complicated by weather hazards such as hurricanes. Once the oysters are ready for market, the bags are pulled in, the oysters are washed thoroughly, and then counted out 100 to a box.
Since the oyster acts as a vacuum that is constantly filtering its surroundings, water quality is a continuous concern. Bekah Bay is frequently monitored by the Marine Fisheries Division of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality ensuring the highest quality of water for the oysters.
The oyster gardens of Bekah Bay are uniquely situated where they get a constant supply of ocean waterflow to create a salty, clean oyster. Bekah Bay is surrounded by forests and marshes and is free of large industrial farms or factories which ensures a clean nutrient base. Most oysters spawn in warm waters which results in a poor quality, less edible oyster, but we grow a triploid oyster which does not spawn and is able to be harvested year-round. Bekah Bay Oyster Company sells two different sizes of oysters, one being a “petite”, measuring 2.5 to 3 inches, and the other designated as “choice” which are larger than 3 inches.