Matunuck Oyster Farm
South Kingstown, RIUnited States
Matunuck Oyster farm, a seven-acre farm owned by Perry Raso in the clean and placid waters of Potter’s Pond, is divided into five sections, each with oysters at different stages of growth. Water depth at the farm is shallow, no deeper than waist high. On any given day, anywhere from six to eight employees can be found working the farm, helping to raise and care for up to 17 million oysters, depending on the time of year. 70 lines traverse the bottom of the pond, and 100 netted bags of oysters are attached to each line. Half of the farm’s hands are either undergraduate or graduate students in marine-based studies at URI’s Bay Campus. Farmhands handle the oysters frequently, shaking the netted bags. This breaks off the new growth (cuticle) on the edges of the shell, resulting in a deeper, more meaty oyster. Oysters are constantly sorted as they grow to maintain the proper stocking density within each of the netted bags, one of the most important aspects to raising a quality oyster. Larger, faster growing oysters are sorted into bags containing fewer numbers of oysters, which permits good access to water flow and food. In addition to oysters, the farm also raises about 200,000 quahogs (hard shell clams), raises and sells oyster seed, and also grows and harvests edible seaweed. The farm started growing and selling oyster seed in 2010. Not only is demand high for oysters by consumers, but the demand for seed by oyster farmers is high as well. Perry priced his seed so that it made sense for both his farm as well as for other farmers looking to buy seed. Wearing waders in hip-deep water on Potter’s Pond is one place where you might find Perry. A passionate advocate for locally grown aquaculture and produce, he could also be leading a farm tour, teaching the benefits of sustainable farming to interested folks also donning waders, courtesy of Perry. Accompanied by his trusty first mate Kiara, wagging her tail from the drier confines of his boat, he may instead be inspecting his crop, before hauling a fresh bushel or two of Matunuck Oysters back to his restaurant, Matunuck Oyster Bar. Perry remembers always digging clams as a kid. With the aid of scuba gear, he later dove for little necks and quahogs (hard shell clams). He was lured away to Colorado on a college wrestling scholarship, and while there, earned a degree in biology. But he also wrestled with his longing for the ocean, and afterwards, moved back to Rhode Island to pursue marine-based studies at the University of Rhode Island.