April 23, 2018
Joanna Fogg is a fisherman FarmHer. Alongside her husband Jessie, the couple founded an oyster farm on the bay in Bar Harbor, Maine. Joanna grew up on the island and has always been connected to the water. I would even go as far as to say that the sea, is a part of her.
Growing up she worked various jobs, mostly tied to the seafood industry and tourist industry. Many of the jobs were on the water and the ones that weren’t reminded Joanna of where she was supposed to be. She spent time aboard commercial fishing boats and even spent time as a chef on a private yacht. Joanna traveled the world and then landed back home in Bar Harbor. As she and her husband Jesse considered starting a family, they knew they would need to get creative to create a future for themselves on an island that doesn’t have many jobs. They would need to create something for themselves that would allow them to be home more to raise that family, so the started Bar Harbor Oyster Co.
On a foggy, damp and cool morning I met Joanna, Jesse and their baby girl on the beach where their boat was anchored. Joanna pulled her kayak from the back of her truck, drug it out to the shore and that’s where the adventure started. She skillfully and quickly paddled out to the 26-foot boat, switched vessels and drove the larger boat back to shore to pick me up. I not-so-gracefully climbed on and we were off.
As Joanna steered the boat towards the part of the bay that they lease for their farm, she told me about her love for the water. As we neared the oyster farm, which to me looked like black bumpers floating in the water, Joanna explained that this was her regular farm “chores.” Once we pulled closer I could see that those black bumpers were the top of cages that held the oysters. Joanna explained that they had “planted” the seed oysters in the cages and they simply float in the ocean water, filtering up to 50 gallons of water a day through them as they grow.
For the types of oysters they grow and the climate in Bar Harbor, the couple has to care for the oysters for about three years before they are market size. Since Bar Harbor is just about three years old, the couple is now starting to be able to harvest their profitable oysters. Joanna skillfully cleaned the seaweed and predators off the cages, sorted the oysters to make sure they were doing ok, and moved some to a larger cage. We then repeated the process at another part of the farm. I was anxious to try one of the fruits of Joanna’s labor but unfortunately the bay there was experiencing a normally occurring toxic algae bloom that made the seafood harvested from it unsuitable. Joanna explained that this was just part of the ups and downs of being a farmher who relies on the ocean….sometimes she just has to have patience. The good news is once the bloom passes, the water clears and the seafood will once again be safe to eat…but not before it put a little cramp in my day, and a big cramp in Joanna’s business.
As our day on the farm wound to a close, we drove back toward the beach, the fog had lifted and the sun was shining brilliantly over the water. A seal and even a few porpoises joined us and I could see just why Joanna chooses to spend her days on the water. It allows her to be connected to who she is, work close to her family at home and grow a business that matters to her. Joanna is a strong, capable and downright amazing FarmHer and I can’t wait for my next trip to Bar Harbor to see where Joanna and Jesse have taken Bar Harbor Oyster Co and to try one of those delicious oysters!
October 21, 2018
October 17, 2018
October 15, 2018
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