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New oyster farm awash in orders for 'Stockton Sweets'

By Sarah E. Reynolds | Sep 11, 2020
Courtesy of: Cynthia & Eric Prosser Cynthia and Eric Prosser, owners of Stockton Harbor Oyster Co.

Stockton Springs — Eric and Cynthia Prosser have a problem: There is a lot more demand for their product than they anticipated.

The couple started Stockton Harbor Oyster Co. last year, and about three weeks ago they finally had some ready to sell. Their oysters, which they call "Stockton Sweets," have been snapped up so fast they have had to start a waiting list.

Eric said it generally takes two to three years for the mollusks to grow from tiny seed oysters to commercial size. The Prossers' oysters have grown "fantastically," he said, and 25% of them were ready to sell this year. They're hoping the oysters will continue to grow this year, but as the water cools, growth stops. Eventually, the oysters go dormant for the winter.

At that point, he said, they sink the mesh bags containing the oysters to the bottom of the harbor, to be brought up to near the surface in mid- to late spring so they can feed on the algae that bloom as the water warms again.

The business has expanded its inventory significantly over its short life. Eric said they started with 5,000 seed oysters last year, and ordered another 10,000 this year. Next year, he expects to order 20,000 to 30,000. The seed oysters are relatively inexpensive, he said, because they are so tiny; so 10,000 of them might cost $300 or $400.

Labor is the largest cost to the business. Every other weekend, Cynthia said, she and Eric go out and clean the oysters and make sure they have sufficient water flow. So far, they have no employees, so labor is "free."

Besides dramatically increasing the number of oysters they buy, they want to order a hybrid variety of the mollusk that does not propagate in the water, Cynthia said, so they will stay sweet all summer, and reproduction will not change their flavor.

The business has pages on Facebook and Instagram, and takes orders on both, as well as by phone. Customers are given a time to come to the Prossers' home to pick up their oysters.

The pair said they started the oyster farm because they both grew up on the coast — he in Rockland and she in Ellsworth — and wanted to do something on the water. Also, oysters were not easy to find on this part of the coast, between Thomaston and Bar Harbor. Cynthia added that Maine is an ideal place for this kind of business, because its clean, cold, nutritious water makes the oysters taste better than those from farther south.

"We're feeling bad that we don't have more product to sell to customers," Eric concluded, admitting that it is a good problem to have.

A plate of shucked Stockton Sweets, shown Sept. 6. (Photo by: Carolyn Zachary)
(Source: Stockton Harbor Oyster Co. Facebook Page)
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