The Majestic May River and Its Bountiful Harvest

A family with a passion to create the finest boat to table experience

With lessons taught by fathers and grandfathers – they know the dignity of hard work that follows the tides and days that often begin in the wee hours. Their faces and their voices all speak of a heritage that defines the coast. Exuberance radiates from the folks at the May River Oyster Company in Bluffton, South Carolina when they speak about their oysters, the farm and the future. The team consists of Brad and Olivia Young, their son, Dillon, and nephews Austin and Andrew Harter.  All are South Carolina natives and generations of their family have enjoyed the beauty and the bountiful harvest of the majestic May River for more than 100 years. It’s all about sustainability, quality and their passion to create the finest river-to-restaurant experience possible. Oystering is in their blood. There’s meaning in the work they do. Something within them stirs deep down.

Pride. This family takes great pride in the fact that their farm is planting thousands of oysters, which takes a tremendous amount of harvesting pressure off the wild population, allowing them to leave the shell banks and reefs more intact.  The more oysters there are, the cleaner the water. Cleaner water allows for more sunlight and more sunlight mean more grass beds on the bottom to create the vitally important habitat for crabs and fish. Olivia explains it this way: “Imagine an aquarium in your house.  If you remove the filter, how long do you think the fish can survive?” she asks. “The water quality continues to decline, eventually making life unsustainable for the fish. The oyster performs the same function for the river. The more oysters you have, the more water gets filtered, and the health of the environment increases for all species.  This is the reason we practice sustainable harvesting practices and add many more oysters to the river by farming.”

With chefs up and down the coast demanding locally sourced, sustainable seafood, there’s no more imported shark and tilapia or Chilean sea bass. “You hook it, we cook it” has become their mantra. Boat to table is critical. But they are speak of fisheries declining and of a way of life that may vanish because the country now imports more than 90 percent of its seafood.  The baselines may be shifting, but among the chefs and the fishermen of the Lowcountry, a future is certain.

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