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Farm May Yield Future for Maryland Oyster Industry

MARYLAND - Down a one-lane road past barren fields teeming with squawking Canada geese is something that hasn't been found on the Eastern Shore for more than two decades - a river filled with oysters.

And Kevin McClarren knows how many are there, because he and his crew have planted every single one. Five million healthy oysters on 3,000 floats on the water's surface, with anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 oysters each.

Every day, McClarren and his four workers - all of whom have degrees in biology or marine science - wade into the water, each with multiple layers of sweat shirts, to tend to their burgeoning crop.

"It's not a real easy way to make a living," McClarren said recently as he helped the crew power-wash oysters in 35-degree weather. "I can't see a time when there's going to be an awful lot of this around here."

Nearly two years after Maryland streamlined its permitting rules in hopes of encouraging under-employed watermen to enter the aquaculture business, McClarren operates one of just a handful of commercial oyster farms in Maryland and the only one with a hatchery.