watermen-prepare-to-haulFrank Roberts’ Lady’s Island Oyster Farm brings a sustainably harvested oyster to the Lowcountry

“As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.”

– Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast



It’s a crisp morning in late November on Brown’s Island and the dock on Half Moon Creek, home base for Frank Roberts’ Lady’s Island Oyster Farm. A cold front blew through last night and took with it all watermen-dolphin-halfmoon-creekremaining cloud cover and humidity, scrubbing the air clean. The sky is bright turquoise. A light breeze only hints at what awaits out on the big water.


Frank Roberts preps the boat as a pair of bottlenose dolphin fish near the creek bank just a few feet away. One of Roberts’ dogs, Jack, cocks his head as they cruise past the dock and disappear into the sun’s molten mercury reflection on the rippling current.


We’re headed out to the mouth of the Coosaw River to look over part of Roberts’ oyster farm. The sustainable operation is – as far as Roberts knows – the only one of its kind in South Carolina to actually grow select single oysters on a viable commercial scale. Roberts works closely with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and is currently involved in a study that could revolutionize oyster production in the state.


watermen-shells-return-bedRoberts is experimenting with growing sterile oysters. Unconcerned with the preoccupation for procreation, these mollusks grow twice as fast – mature at around seven months rather than fourteen.


We snake out of Half Moon Creek and break out into Whale Branch, the bridge about a half-mile to starboard. We turn in the opposite direction to make for the Coosaw. Out on the open water a westerly wind beats the incoming tide to a rough chop. A mini-armada of snowbirds in vessels of all descriptions line the horizon in a southerly caravan on the Intracoastal Waterway to winter berths in warmer climes.


We cross the mouth of the Beaufort River and into the waters of the Coosaw River. In the distance a watermen-baskets-green-shellcoastline of maritime forest rolls into a vast savannah of salt marsh. The wet plains of spartina grass are a ruddy auburn. Summer’s heady scent of necessary decay is gone. The air rushing over the bow smells of renewal – clean, sweet and salty.


“I love going to work like this,” Frank half-shouts over the engine. “There’s nothing else like it.”





Look for more in print and online in the December 21st issue of Lowcountry Weekly.

Lady’s Island Oysters are available each Friday at the Habersham Farmer’s Market and through silo-beaufort.com or email Frank Roberts at ladyioyster@embarqmail.com.

Mark Shaffer’s email is backyardtourist@gmail.com


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