‘The Oyster Farmers’ Documentary Film Premiere Planned for May
Closing scene footage was captured this past weekend for “The Oyster Farmers,” a documentary on oyster aquaculture in Barnegat Bay. The Oak Leaf Media film, directed by Corinne G. Ruff and produced by Angela C. Andersen, aims to play a part in awareness and restoration of oyster farming in the Barnegat Bay-Little Egg Estuary and statewide.
“We filmed the closing scenes at The Old Causeway (in Manahawkin) Saturday morning,” said Andersen. “We invited everyone in the film, as well as sponsors, friends and supporters to fill the bar.” The feature, she noted, will premiere at the end of May.
“The Oyster Farmers” ties together the past and present of local oyster farming, telling the story of fourth generation oysterman Dale Parsons Sr. and his son, the fifth generation, Dale Parsons Jr. of Parsons Seafood in Tuckerton and of “new blood” boutique oyster farmers Matt Gregg and Scott Lennox of Forty North Oyster Farms, based in Barnegat.
As a description of the film states, the documentary “will carry the audience from the depths of the bay bottom through the layers of history, locked in thick detritus, rich with remnants of yesterday’s oyster industry,” booming from the late 1800s to the 1950s, and later harmed by overharvesting and shellfish disease.
Oyster farming, though, is making a comeback. “During a time of a cultural resurgence of the oyster as a social-centric icon in oyster bars everywhere,” the film synopsis notes, “the innate story that is told by each oyster’s taste, shape and size, and the grit and time it takes to make it happen from seed to plate, against obstacles, will be presented in this visually stunning and heartfelt film.”
The teaser for the film, on the Oak Leaf media website – at oakleafmedia.com/documentary – features stunning videography of the bay and its farmers, with a voiceover noting: “For thousands of year, people have worked this bay. These waters were the lifeblood of generation after generation. But time changes. And as the bayman’s way of life fades to the past, a new generation is bringing the bounty back. Today, the tide is turning. New ways, new trials, and a new legacy to leave behind.”
Jetty, the local apparel company, also devotes a webpage to the film, at jettylife.com/pages/jetty-oyster-farmers, which includes the teaser and an online donation form. All donations to the project are tax deductible. A portion of proceeds from the film will be reinvested in oyster production.
According to Jetty, whose charitable Jetty Rock Foundation is the fiscal sponsor of the project, “The ethos of environmental stewardship, coastal culture and sustainability echoes throughout the film. The Barnegat Bay, historically the epicenter of wild oysters on the entire Eastern Seaboard, is now less than 1 percent. This film aims to raise awareness of our lost oyster culture and to preserve our baymen’s heritage.”
“Our approach to film-making is to build community locally, regionally and globally around the story,” said Andersen. “The film itself will become a tremendous tool in the conversation about the economy and ecology of shellfish aquaculture and the cultural centricity of oysters.”
— Juliet Kaszas-Hoch