TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (June 10, 2013) – On Wednesday, May 15, over 60
friends of Wakulla, including leadership from Tallahassee Community College and
the Wakulla Environmental Institute (WEI), gathered at Spring Creek Restaurant
for an open house to showcase the restaurant’s groundbreaking efforts to
cultivate locally-farmed oysters.
Leo Lovel, owner and proprietor of Spring Creek, has been
exploring the aquaculture practice of farming oysters in the nearby brackish
waters of Wakulla County. He cultivated oysters for nine months to prepare for
the open house event and offered them for free to all the guests for tasting.
He said that the general consensus was that they were the best tasting oysters
most had ever had. Lovel will begin to offer these delicious treats to Spring
Creek’s patrons in lieu of wild-caught oysters, the populations of which have
suffered greatly in recent months.
Wakulla County’s coastal region is uniquely suited for such a
venture. Oyster farming is prevalent internationally, but many believe that
Wakulla could become the epicenter of production for this growing industry due
to the nutrient-rich waters and warm climate. Lovel claims to have seen a much
more rapid growth rate with his oysters compared to other producers.
For this reason, TCC’s Wakulla Environmental Institute has
developed a working partnership with Spring Creek that would allow them to
utilize a portion of WEI’s forthcoming state-leased underwater land to research
and develop farmed oysters. Bob Ballard, director of the Wakulla Environmental
Institute, has been instrumental in establishing this partnership.
“This is the best place in the world to grow oysters due to the
nutrients here,” explained Ballard. “Oysters are also some of the most
environmentally-friendly food with two times the daily requirement of B12 and
Zinc and a shell of pure carbon that actually takes CO2 from the atmosphere and
Ballard was confident of the impact for the region if this
industry is allowed to flourish, and plans are already in the works for a
future aquaculture degree which would include an oyster farming certificate.
“I think this has the potential to revitalize the local oyster
industry,” said Ballard. “Farmed oysters help fertilize wild oysters, they
encourage sport fish and they are tremendous cleaners of the environment. Just
a small parcel of land can house thousands of cages which can produce hundreds
of thousands of oysters.”
Aside from educating a workforce who can meet the current and
future environmental demands of the region, part of WEI’s core mission is to
seek out and support any efforts to foster growth in industries like tourism,
fishing and agriculture of Wakulla and the surrounding coastal counties. The
open house at Spring Creek was WEI’s first public showing of support for this
venture, but WEI sees the partnership with Spring Creek as an opportunity to
explore mutually beneficial relationships with local entrepreneurs and
businesses in the interest of encouraging applied research in academics as well
as private-sector economic growth.