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Oysters Opening up in Alaska

by Ellen Hardy
18 August 2008, at 1:00am

ALASKA, US - After a century of effort, the Alaskan oyster industry may now be poised to take off.

Tom Henderson runs Pearl of Alaska, one of the largest oyster farms in Alaska. And he's just a one-man operation, reports Juneau Empire.

Henderson supplies the only Alaska oysters regularly available in Juneau grocery stores and restaurants. Those outlets number just two: Super Bear Supermarket in the Mendenhall Valley and the Baranof Hotel restaurant downtown.

According to Juneau Empire, that hints at the size of the Alaska oyster industry. Last year, 26 organizations sold about $450,000 in oysters. People have been trying to grow these persnickety bivalves in Alaska for a century. But the industry is just now at the point where it might take off.

Growing oysters has a lot of the challenges of farming on land. It's hard labor on a seasonal schedule. It's subject to the mercy of the weather. And it gives small margins with a long wait for any return on a heavy initial investment.

But for those who want to grow something - such as Henderson, who grew up on a farm in Haines - it's just the right niche.

Ellen Hardy