If you experience any difficulty in accessing content on Small Business Revolution, please contact us at 866.332.6127 or email us at , and we will make every effort to assist you.

Story #53Ichabod Flat OystersPlymouth, MA

We’re as small as small business gets. It’s all hands on deck.

For Don Wilkinson and Dennis Winders, every workday is governed by the tides. Together they run Ichabod Flat Oysters, hand-raising and harvesting oysters on a sandbar in the middle of Plymouth Bay, and distributing them to local restaurants around Boston and New York in a true farm-to-table operation.

Owner Don Wilkinson is a waterman at heart, having spent twenty years as a commercial mussel harvester. In the first decade of the new millennium, aquaculture, the farming of aquatic organisms, began to spread to the Boston area. Wilkinson saw the opportunity as a good retirement project, and in 2011 he leased a sandbar in the middle of the bay to start raising his first crop of Ichabod Flat Oysters. In 2012, Winders joined him and together they handle all aspects of this two-person business.

Wilkinson picked a good spot. At high tide the farm is about 12 feet underwater, but at low tide, the bay almost entirely empties out, and each new high tide brings in fresh water full of nutrients. The cycle of the tides means that their working hours shift every day, depending on when low tide is, and they only have a window of about 3-4 hours to work. Winders says, “one week we get to watch the sun rise, and the following week we get to watch it set.”

Oyster farming is thought to be one of the most benign or beneficial types of aquaculture, since oysters are filter feeders. Winders considers their work to be a service to the coastline as well as the community, by providing fresh farm-to-table food. “Now I really understand the push behind eating local, and the whole idea of knowing where your food came from and appreciating the people that raised it,” says Winders.

The most challenging time comes during the brutal Northeastern winter months, especially on the frigid and dark early morning boat rides to the farm. But, says Winders, “there are very few people that get to turn around and realize that they’re making their living standing in the ocean. The absolute most rewarding thing is being in the middle of the ocean watching the sun come up. I don’t think that Don would disagree with that.”

 

Photos by Christina Clusiau

  • Fresh oysters are ready to be served at Row 34 oyster bar in Boston, Mass. Row 34 is a restaurant owned by Island Creek Oysters that serves Ichabod Flat Oysters.

  • Fresh oysters are served at Row 34 oyster bar in Boston, Mass.

  • Don Wilkinson and Dennis Winders head back to shore after harvesting oysters in the bay off the coast of Plymouth, Mass.

  • Don Wilkinson, owner of Ichabod Flat Oysters. On the possibility of Wilkinson hanging up his cap anytime soon, Winders says, "Don's not gonna be able to stop moving."

  • Don Wilkinson and Dennis Winders of Ichabod Flat Oysters.

  • Don Wilkinson harvests oysters in the bay off the coast of Plymouth, Mass. Wilkinson and Dennis Winders both agree that earning a living on the water is the best thing about their small business.

  • Don Wilkinson and Dennis Winders of Ichabod Flat Oysters harvest oysters in the bay off the coast of Plymouth, Mass.

  • Don Wilkinson harvests oysters in the bay off the coast of Plymouth, Mass. Harvest season takes place every year at the end of April into early May.

  • Dennis Winders harvests oysters in the bay off the coast of Plymouth, Mass. The cycle of the tides means that their working hours shift every day, depending on when low tide is, and they only have a window of about 3-4 hours to work.

  • Don Wilkinson, owner of Ichabod Flat Oysters, heads out in the early morning to harvest oysters in the bay off the coast of Plymouth, Mass.

  • Dennis Winders joined Don Wilkinson in 2012, and the two handle all aspects of the small business Ichabod Flat Oysters. "It's all hands on deck."

  • Don Wilkinson is a waterman at heart, having spent the 1980s and 1990s as a commercial mussel harvester. In 2011 he started Ichabod Flat Oysters as a retirement project.

  • Oysters from the Ichabod Flat Oysters farm in the bay off the coast of Plymouth, Mass. Oyster farming is thought to be one of the most benign and beneficial forms of aquaculture, which refers to the farming of organisms in a controlled environment.

  • The Ichabod Flat Oysters farm is located on a sandbar in the bay off the coast of Plymouth, Mass. At high tide the farm is about 12 feet underwater, and at low tide the bay almost entirely empties out.

Business Details

Proprietor: Don Wilkinson, Dennis Wilders
Plymouth, MA
Website
_ _ Back
To Top