Courtesy of Acadia Aqua Farms
In 1776 there was a riot in the Netherlands, and it started because of mussels. The local Land Baron had to intervene and the spokesperson for the mussel men was an ancestor of ours; Theun de Koning. Theun explained that people were poaching mussels from land where mussels were being cultivated, so the Baron allocated areas to farm mussels and so began the aquaculture lease system. They could now cultivate mussels of high quality and sustainably.
Our family has been farming mussels ever since. In 2004 we moved our family to Maine to see if seabed culture mussel farming would be appropriate and successful. The superiority of all seafood grown in Maine waters is, of course, undisputed, but there is a lot else to consider, both socially and environmentally. You need to be a good observer and listener as a marine farmer. To farm mussels on the seabed requires shallow, protected water with a muddy bottom, both of which are not great lobster habitat — which is important as lobster grounds are out of bounds. Lobster is the primary fishery on the coast and always has priority.
We have spent the last 17 years slowly working on growing the best mussels we can, in a socially and environmentally responsible manner. To do this properly costs money, so a profitable business is a necessity. We have invested in people and served in the community both at state and local level to make sure that we are connected to the bigger picture of best management practices and with a broader perspective than our own. We seek solutions to problems and to help answer questions that arise. Yet challenges keep coming. For our little company with 15 year-round employees to be able to be robust and resilient in the face of these challenges, we need to diversify. From our specialty Mussels we now have Oysters and soon will have deep water grown Sea Scallops to offer, and we always sell out of everything we grow. All of these species add positive eco-services for water quality.
We share these waters with others: shellfish and seaweed farmers and commercial fishermen, local landowners, sailors, kayak tour guides, bird watchers. Frenchman Bay has a lot to offer and it pulls on the heart strings of us all. Some are more vocal than others but the depth of commitment to stewardship and care is much the same. Time spent on or surrounding Frenchman Bay, is invigorating and fruitful and provides many of the delicacies that adorn local restaurant tables for the multitudes who visit the area in the summer months. Local food is so appreciated by those who come here.
As a family we have been blessed by the opportunity to work together and it is a joy to have both sons working full time in the shellfish farming business, making them the sixth generation to do so. To provide food that is healthy, environmentally responsible, delicious and, well, cool to grow, is a benefit that is perhaps not thought about enough.
Hollander and de Köning is a family owned Maine company. The owner, Theo de Koning, is a fifth generation Dutch mussel farmer and has been farming for more than 20 years. Learn more about at www.acadia-aquafarms.com.
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