CARTERET COUNTY — Rebekah Williams has vivid memories clamming and gathering oysters with her grandfather on his 10-acre oyster farm.
Her early childhood dream was to become an oyster farmer just like grandpa.
Williams has always loved being on the water, but children have a way of growing up and moving on to other things. After college, Williams came home for the summer and began working at Sammy’s, a local restaurant. Soon, Williams learned that Sammy Boyd had an oyster farm. He also grew up in the fishing industry.
When Williams shared her childhood dream with Boyd of starting a business of farming oysters, Boyd highly encouraged her.
In 2016, she officially obtained a lease from the State of North Carolina and in 2017 began buying “seed oysters.” Seed oysters are tiny oysters as small as 1 millimeter that are raised from larval oysters.
It takes one full year for a seed oyster to grow to market size. As with any garden, there is a lot of work to produce good product. In that year, the oysters have to be tumbled multiple times in order to knock off excess growth off the lip of the oyster so that it can grow a deeper cup. Then there is the process of splitting the bags as oysters grow at different rates. The bags then have to be cleaned and bag sizes changed out to allow the constant flow of nutrient-rich water through the bags.
Oyster farming is a labor-intensive process and many 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 instead of the 4,000 per bag started out with. Maintenance on the oyster beds is frequent and can be complicated by weather hazards such as hurricanes. But Rebekah’s passion and dream of owning her own oyster farm is all worth it, she says.
Williams is now a successful business owner of Bekah Bay Oysters. Since her “farm” is uniquely situated where they get a constant supply of ocean waterflow to create a salty, clean oyster, they have become very popular.
Bekah Bay is surrounded by forests and marshes and is free of large industrial farms and factories which ensures a clean nutrient base. It is frequently monitored by the Marine Fisheries Division of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality to keep ensuring the highest quality of water for the oysters.
Williams currently supplies oysters to restaurants all over both Carolinas.
Locally, you can grab a taste these gems in Morehead City at The Ordinary and Southern Salt or at Moonrakers in Beaufort.
Still staying at home due to COVID 19? Williams will ship your order right to your house.