Oysters at Merroir Tasting Room
Over the last 600 years, tribal power was asserted, fortunes made and lost, the famous skipjack boat designed, and conflicts waged all in pursuit of the native Chesapeake Bay oyster, Crassostrea virginica. Environmental historian Hayden Mathews leads a tour that focuses on a new chapter in the bivalve’s history: innovative developments in commercial farming and aquaculture.
Mathews provides an en-route overview of the bay’s history, ecology, and the current issues facing it. The group first visits the Steamboat Era Museum in Irvington, Virginia, which interprets the period from 1812 to 1960 when steamboats were the life’s blood of the Chesapeake Bay. They connected major cities and small towns and carried people, produce, livestock, and even the family piano to bustling wharves along the shoreline of the bay and its tributaries.
After a boxed lunch, the next stop focuses on the present with a visit to the Rappahannock Oyster Company in Topping, Virginia, one the pioneers of the new oyster industry. In 2001, with harvests at record-low levels in the bay, two cousins set out to revive the 119-year-old Croxton family business as one of the first sustainable aquaculture companies in the Chesapeake watershed.
Today, thanks to the Croxtons and others willing to invest in the science, experimentation, and hard work of industrial-scale aquaculture, Virginia leads the East Coast in oyster production.
A tour of the Rappahannock Oyster Company provides insights into the biology of the native oyster; the Croxtons’ role in establishing regional oyster farming; and how an alliance of farmers, chefs, activists, and politicians developed a new industry that is helping shape the Chesapeake Bay’s future—and that of the bay oyster itself. At the day’s end, relax over dinner and sample Virginia’s famed fresh oysters and a local crab cake, along with a cold beer or glass of wine, in the company’s waterside Merrior Tasting Room.
Fringe stop at about 7:55 a.m.
This tour includes boxed lunch and dinner.
Departs Mayflower Hotel, DeSales St side
1127 Connecticut Ave NW; Fringe: Oxon Hill
Park & Ride, 6700 Oxon Hill Rd, Oxon Hill, MD