two oyster farmers with colorful plastic tubs walk through an oyster farm at low tide

Amidst a changing environment, these oyster farmers see beauty, delicacy in their work

Working with the instinctive motion that comes only with years spent at the job, Jen and Greg pulled gloved hands through metal trays, examining the contents.

Oysters; and some of Massachusetts’ finest, grown in Barnstable’s Great Marsh — a wide expanse tucked into the bicep of Cape Cod’s long peninsula and forming one of Mother Earth’s natural paradises: a glorious protected basin that enjoys 12-foot tides in the summers, washing saltwater and nutrients over these bivalves and infusing them with the richness and flavor that will eventually be described by restaurant staffs: sweetness, brine, creaminess; handheld sips of the sea.

That morning in early October, I had met the two Moon Shoal Oyster farmers on the docks with the sun still low on the milky horizon, a deep blue sky evidence of the warmth that would overcome the mist hovering at the base of the boats in Yarmouth harbor, and along the miles of grasses tinged yellow and orange with the impending fall. 

In the small white skiff that forges their work commute, we cut through the ocean’s glass, across a landscape dotted with a labyrinth of oyster farms, the tops of the trays gleaming above the surface.

The oysters grow beautifully here, yes, but it’s a two-way street: they also keep it beautiful — functioning as natural filters for excessive algae and improving the quality.

“Barnstable one of cleanest harbors and its because of all the oysters here,” Greg said.

“This is the nursery. The hatchery of the ocean.

“It’s worth paying attention and protecting.”