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Tenacity Drives Successful NC Oyster Business

by Ellen Hardy
10 March 2008, at 12:00am

US - To raise a good oyster, it helps to have the tenacity of one, says Jim and Bonnie Swartzenberg have set their minds to making oyster farming a viable enterprise in North Carolina.

As pioneers in the field, the Swartzenbergs have helped draw attention to the need to protect coastal water quality. They have given researchers a living classroom in which to study oysters and the creatures that share their shrinking habitats.

Accoridng to the News and Observer, the couple have created a template for a business that could provide supplemental income for anyone with access to clean, briny water and a penchant for hard work.

"They are persistent, insistent, and consistent," says Philip "Skip" Kemp Jr., an aquaculture professor at Carteret Community College who has worked on several projects with the Swartzenbergs over the past decade.

The business, called J&B AquaFood, began like Bonnie and Jim's courtship: as an experiment.

After years of helping Bonnie harvest clams in Stump Sound for spending money, Jim suggested that he wanted to farm oysters. The first few years, they reinvested their profits in equipment and materials to build better tanks and cages where the oysters get started.

They tested other people's techniques, combining ones that worked with ideas of their own and the business evolved.

The couple start each year's new crop in late spring with $250 worth of larvae from a hatchery in Virginia. That's about a million microscopic oysters in a mass the size of a golf ball.

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Ellen Hardy