There is a new way to get local oysters on the North Fork. Roadside stands are popping up around Southold Town thanks to a new law that paves the way for oyster farmers to sell directly to consumers.
For the first time, Founders Oyster Farm owner Steven Schnee rolled out a red wagon this month stocked freshly harvested oysters in front of his Southold home. Picked up at a local garage sale, the no-frills push cart bares a driftwood sign labeled “Founders Oysters” that was hand painted in white lettering by Schnee’s daughter. Beside the chilled oysters is a good-faith cash box that passersby can drop $15 into for container of 13 oysters.
“The opportunity to sell retail from a roadside stand is just great,” said Schnee, a former TV producer for ABC News who launched Founders Oyster Farm four years ago after learning the ropes at Cornell Cooperative Extension in Southold. “People can pick some up on their way home and shuck that night for dinner.
Schnee, who raises his oysters in the Peconic Bay, northwest of Shelter Island, sold four containers the first weekend. He plans to keep the stand, located at 140 Founders Path, open on weekends, to start. He’ll typically set up around 10 a.m. and close around 6 p.m., replenishing the stand as needed throughout the day. (Stay up-to-date on hours by following @foundersoysters).
Until now, Schnee and other local oyster farmers were limited to selling at markets or to restaurants, or at special events and via home delivery. Not only does the new rule open up a new revenue stream, it gives farmers a chance to connect with their customers on a personal level, said Dave Daly, who owns Southold Bay Oysters with his husband, Ben Gonzalez.
“For people who enjoy local food and local products, this is another opportunity for them to know exactly where it’s coming from,” Daly said, adding that the code change is a win for oyster farmers who have been looking for another means of selling their products. “We wanted to have the same advantage that every other farmer in Southold had, which is selling directly to customers from your land — the only difference was that our land was underwater.”
Daly and Gonzalez also recently set up an oyster stand at their farmhouse on Ackerly Pond Lane in Southold two. Keep an eye out for their sign on Route 25 or 48 to find your way. Response was positive, Daly said, adding that several people stop by for a dozen oysters, priced at $15.
Like Founders Oysters, Southold Bay Oysters’ self-serve stand is set up similar to unmanned egg and flower stands. Customers can pay $15 cash or use the payment app Venmo to purchase the oysters (the Venmo handle is @SoutholdBayOysters). The stand will be open weekends, Thursday through Sunday depending on the harvest and weather. (Follow them on social media for updates @SoutholdBayOysters).
The new roadside stands come at a good time of year for oyster lovers. The “R” months — meaning months that end in “R,” September, October, November and December — are when oysters are at their most meaty, Peconic Gold Oysters owner Matt Ketcham said.
“There is no bad time of year to eat oysters, but right now they are fattening up for the winter,” he said. “The ‘R months’ is a good general rule to go by.”
Ketcham, who has been shucking his oysters at Jamesport Brewery on weekends, is gearing up to open his Cutchogue roadside oyster stand in time for Columbus Day weekend. He is planning to sell oysters in a variety of increments, from 24 to as many as 50 oysters per bag. The stand will be located at 21125 Route 48 in Cutchogue between Depot Lane and Cox Lane.
“This is a really great way to promote my brand and get to meet the customers,” he said.
Ketcham encourages people to bring an ice-packed cooler along to transport the oysters, though Peconic Gold Oysters would provide disposal coolers, if needed. Ketchum also noted that it is best to get them home and refrigerated as soon as possible. (Stay up to date on the opening by following @peconicgoldoysters)