Southold Bay Oysters has first commercial harvest

About three years ago, Dave Daly and Ben Gonzalez decided to leave their life in Manhattan behind and move to the North Fork full-time to start a new business together.

They had a love of oysters and knew the North Fork was the ideal location for aquaculture. They founded Southold Bay Oysters in 2015 and this year was their first commercial harvest.

“Our harvest was fantastic,” Mr. Gonzalez said. “I’m proud of the work we’ve done with year.” 

They grow their oysters 20-feet underwater in the middle of Southold Bay. They have 10 acres of space for farming, which they acquired through the Suffolk County Aquaculture lease program.

They call their product Southold Shindigs.

“Anytime we have a get together we call them shindigs,” Mr. Daly said. “Anytime you have oysters it’s kind of like having a little party, so we call them Southold Shindigs and it’s a little party every time you have some of our oysters.”

Mr. Daly and Mr. Gonzalez gained their knowledge of oyster farming through the Cornell Cooperative Extension’s SPAT program, which encourages community members to be stewards of the environment and to help restore shellfish to the bays.

The said they also learned a lot from engaging with the local aquaculture and business community.

“That’s been the best part, really getting to know the North Fork on a different level,” Mr. Daly said.

Ian Wile, of Little Creek Oysters in Greenport, said he was happy to help Southold Bay Oysters, adding them to the two dozen local oyster companies they carry at the market. Mr. Wile said Southold Bay oysters has also joined the Noank Aquaculture co-op, a group they are a part of that represents oyster farmers from New York and Connecticut.

Dave Daly and Ben Gonzalez of Southold Bay Oysters. (Credit: Krysten Massa)

“They’ve thrown themselves into the community one hundred percent,” Mr. Wile said. “What’s interesting is that every one of the oyster growers seems to be finding their own niche.”

He said Mr. Daly and Mr. Gonzales seemed to find their niche in showcasing their oysters at events.

Mr. Wile said he’s glad to see the oyster farming community growing, adding that more oyster farmers give better exposure to the industry and could prompt more shared services or further economic development down the line.

“We need to elevate the region as a whole, and we all try and do our best to show off the region’s best products as a whole,” Mr. Wile said.

The team at Southold Bay Oyster said they appreciate the new relationships they have been able to make through their journey.

“Without the help of some of our friends we wouldn’t be able to do what we’re doing,” Mr. Gonzalez said.

By May they had their first crop of oysters ready to hit the market. They got their name out there by participating at different local events, showcasing their oysters at businesses like Bedell at Corey Creek, Little Creek Oysters and Greenport Harbor Brewery.

“You can tell they are passionate about what they’re doing,” Rich Vandenburgh from Greenport Harbor Brewery said.

The brewery has worked with Southold Bay Oystersfor numerous events so far this year, including its Oyster Festival during Columbus Day Weekend. 

Southold Bay Oysters calls its shellfish Southold Shindigs. (Credit: Krysten Massa)

Mr. Vandenburgh said with the opening of the brewery’s new restaurant at the Peconic tasting room, it’s important for them to source food within an 11-mile radius and Southold Bay Oysters fits perfectly into that model.

“We love supporting friends and locals and anytime we can support somebody who has a quality product we like to do that,” he said.

Aside from participating in local events, the company is getting its name out in the community with the creation of their Shindig Shuck Boxes for the holidays.

The box is the ideal gift for people who want to enjoy oysters at their home. It comes in a little red cooler with two dozen oysters – harvested fresh the week the box is ordered -, a stainless steel oyster shucking knife, shucking instruction, homemade cocktail sauce, which Mr. Daly makes using tomatoes from Wesnofske farm and Schmitt’s horseradish, and a recipe for making oysters Rockefeller.

They offer free delivery of boxes from Jamesport to Orient Point and they will be accepting orders for their Shindig Shuck Boxes through the month of December.

Mr. Daly grew up spending all of his summers in Southold and he’s fulfilling a dream of his to be able to have a career on the North Fork. Aside from living their dream on the eastern end of Long Island, the couple also loves to travel and keeps a travel blog on their website.

They try oysters everywhere they visit. They’ve tasted oysters from Australia, France and New Zealand. They plan to try out the oysters in Alaska when this visit in February.

However, Mr. Daly said he enjoys the taste of oysters from the East End of Long Island the best.

The two hope next year they’ll be able to expand the size of their farm and spread their products beyond the North Fork.

They are fortunate for a successful first year and for a community who has welcomed them. They said their favorite part is watching others enjoy their product.

“For us, our oysters are kind of like our babies, so when people like them, when they enjoy them, it’s very rewarding; we’re very proud of them,” Mr. Daly said.  “There’s nothing better than people enjoying your hard work.”