Thursday, July 04, 2013

CLAM FARMING AT CEDAR KEY ... FIELDTRIP!

YES,  PureFlorida has been dormant for weeks ... I know, I know.
That was due to a perfect storm of new computer, a full week on an island with no internet, and a full travel/training schedule this summer.
 
I am home for a wee bit now and will try to honor my readers by actually posting some of the Floridacentric posts you expect here at PF.
 
But enough excuses, let's talk clam farming...
 
The week on Seahorse Key with 9 students (8 from New York City + 1 from South Florida) was fantastic! We did awesome things and not just a few awesome things, but a full week of AWESOME THINGS!
I'm going to share some of those AWESOME THINGS in a series of posts here on PF.
My challenge is to do this without pictures of the kids ... alas ... I don't feel comfortable posting recognizable  shots of the kids without permission.
 
It bugs me that you won't see them in action, because they were one GREAT group of kids.
 
One of our expedition days was totally dedicated to clam aquaculture at Cedar Key.
We started the day at the Marine Research center on Cedar Key where the kids learned about stock enhancement and crossbreeding of clam varieties to improve the survivability and growth of the clams.
 
After the lab, we dropped in on one of the larger clam operations in Cedar Key, "Southern Cross Aquaculture".

 
These are tanks of algae that are being grown to feed the tiny clam "seed" that are spawned in the Southern Cross facility. If you look to the right, you'll see a tank of Carbon Dioxide which is bubbled through the tanks to provide plenty of raw material for photosynthesis.

They also grow algae outside where the light is free. You can judge the relative age of each culture by noting the difference in color. Darker cylinders have older, denser populations of plankton.

After Southern Cross, we followed the clam farming trail out to the actual 2 acre leases in the rich, shallow waters surrounding Cedar Key.
In the picture above, Bobby is using a winch to haul in a clam bag loaded with market size clams.
(No, there's no transom on the stern of that boat ... it's a "bird dog" and the outboard sits up front)

Bobby did a great job of explaining the grow-out and harvest part of clam aquaculture. Sitting next to him is Leslie Sturmer who came to Cedar Key to train fishermen in clam farming techniques after the net ban of 1994. (Note: Nets are not banned, but certain types are.)

More than anyone, Leslie is responsible for the HUGE clam farming industry in Cedar Key.

Someday, they will build a monument to her on Cedar Key.
She's pretty amazing.


This is a nice market sized clam, fresh out of the water on Bobby's lease. The farmers at Cedar Key mainly target the steamer size clams.

They are crazy good and we ate a ton of them at our massive local seafood dinner on the last night of the camp.

These are harvested clams that have been through a packing house process that cleans them, grades them for size and quality, and then packages them for shipping.
The photo was taken in the cold storage room at this packing house.
These clams were destined for New York City, which, not surprisingly, is the largest market area for Cedar Key farm raised clams.

Bushels of clams awaiting their turn in the grader.

These are stacked clam bags ... a common site all over Cedar Key.
The clams spend their growing time out in the Gulf inside these bags.
The bags keep the crop together and offer some protection from predators like black drum and certain rays.

This was a clamtastic day, a true start to finish clam farming experience.


 

8 comments:

robin andrea said...

Welcome back! That's a whole lot of clams you have there.

threecollie said...

So glad you are back and sharing this fascinating stuff! Clam culture is utterly foreign to us inland folks and equally interesting! Looking forward to more.

Floridacracker said...

Robin,
Thanks! Millions and millions of clams go out of here each year.


3Collie,
You know what amazes me is the familiar feel of an agricultural packing house ... even if it's a clam packing house. Everything is hustle bustle, get it ready, get it packed, get it shipped.
I worked a traditional farm packing house as a teen and this clam one had the same atmosphere, just a very different crop!

Aunty Belle said...

Wow wow wow! Definitely clamtastic. Lucky students.

Btw, Uncle an me went to check out yore recommendation of Krispy's in Groveland...imagine their shock when we told them a fella from Cedar Key told us to stop in for some gizzards...the poor man wu stunned, "y'all cme here from Cedar Key??"

An' NO, 'course Aunty doan eat gizzards, but Unlce do.

Youse havin' a good summer.

mary_smith said...

NICE! Looks like you had a great time.

We just started a small Florida community and we'd love for you to stop over if you have a chance.

http://southfloridacommunity.blogspot.com/

kevin said...

Can you send me a bag or two?

Just sayin.......

Pablo said...

Everyone has a teacher that they remember as a strong, positive influence in their life. I"m sure you're going to be that teach for many, many young people!

pablo said...

I'm pretty sure those tanks aren't filled with algae but with beer. There are even what look like some discarded cups beneath the indoor tanks!