SOUTH CHATHAM – Two local men have launched a community supported aquaculture (CSA) program to bring fresh, locally grown oysters to residents of the Cape and greater Boston.
Shellfish Broker, based in South Chatham, will deliver three dozen fresh oysters to subscribers once a month. Right now the service is open to residents of Boston, Cambridge, Somerville and Brookline. Local residents can also subscribe and pick up oysters at the company's South Chatham facility.
Fresh-from-the-boat seafood has grown in popularity during the past year as a way to avoid crowded markets and support local fishermen. But accessing fresh seafood isn't as easy for those who don't live near fishing ports, and shipping can be expensive and difficult. Getting to the Cape, even from Boston, hasn't been an option for many people, said co-founder Matt Belson.
“The pandemic and its associated disruptions with quarantines and shutdowns has meant many folks have not been able to travel to Cape Cod and have access to the local shellfish they were used to having pre-pandemic,” Belson, a Harwich resident, wrote in an email.
The CSA is the brainchild of local residents Jamie Bassett, Shellfish Broker’s co-founder and chief executive officer, and Belson, the company's co-founder and chief operating officer. Bassett is a longtime Chatham commercial shellfisherman and chair of the town's shellfish advisory committee, while Belson, a Harwich resident, is the co-founder of the Devil's Purse Brewing Co. The two met in college.
The idea for the CSA grew from their partnership last summer with GreenCrab.org, which had them delivering fresh green crabs to residents and restaurants in the Boston area. The group gave away more than 1,000 pounds of green crabs in order to promote consumption of the species. Considered an invasive here, green crabs have been a delicacy in the Mediterranean region for centuries, according to the group's website.
“The green crab give-away last summer in Somerville was very successful and it was a great opportunity to work with GreenCrab.org who organized the promotion,” said Belson.
“We believe there is a way to expand the retail market off-Cape and connect more consumers to delicious oysters through this program while minimizing the environmental impact of excessive packaging and shipping charges,” Bassett said in a statement.
Shellfish Broker delivers fresh oysters to residents in Boston, Cambridge, Somerville and Brookline on the second Saturday of each month, beginning in April. Orders include 36 local oysters in three different varieties from rotating growers. A single month share is $75, with free delivery. Signing up for the $215 three-month season gets subscribers six “mystery oysters” with each delivery.
Each month will showcase different oyster-growing regions on Cape Cod and the rest of the state, allowing consumers to try different local oysters they might not otherwise have the chance to purchase at local supermarkets or restaurants, according to the company. Each share also includes a digital oyster guide for specific varieties, highlighting individual farms, growing conditions, flavor profiles, and even wine pairings.
“The pandemic hit our local oyster harvesters on Cape Cod especially hard with the closure of so many restaurants to the point where supply has far outstripped demand,” said Belson. “And we see this delivery program as benefiting not only the consumer but also the oyster growers in our communities.”
The deadline to sign up for the program is April 5, and the first delivery is expected on April 10. If the program is successful, the company will branch out to other varieties of locally harvested shellfish, including clams, scallops, mussels and green crabs. After the first initial three-month mini-season, the company may also look at expanding delivery options, said Belson.
For more information and to sign up for the CSA, visit www.shellfishbroker.com.