On our second VALOR Class III seminar, we visited Cherrystone Aqua Farms, part of Ballard Fish and Oyster Company. For more than 115 years, the Ballard Fish & Oyster Company has been producing some of the best clams and oysters in the world. Today, the 5th generation of the Ballard family, Chad Ballard, is still producing great shellfish, and their reputation for quality, consistency, and service is unsurpassed.
The day we visited, employee Chad “Tex” Metcalf took us around for a tour. The visit kicked off in a meeting room where we saw a video about the vast aquaculture enterprise that is Ballard Fish and Oyster Company. It explained that it grew and harvested shell fish from both bayside and seaside grounds along the Eastern Shore of Virginia extending from Fisherman’s Island all the way to the Maryland state line. The video explained that their locations are not only perfect for growing shellfish but are centrally located to ship almost anywhere in the country within 24-hours of harvest. And their farm-raised products are raised in Virginia state-certified clean growing waters and are available year-round. The company is especially proud that their clams and oysters are an environmentally friendly and sustainable food product and an excellent way to address non-point source pollution in Virginia’s waterways.
On the tour through the packaging plant, storage areas and growing rooms, Tex explained that Ballard primarily grows littleneck clams but topnecks and chowder clam are also available. As for oysters, they grow a wider variety, each undergoing a rigorous grow-out process that ensures the elongated teardrop shape and deep cup that their oysters are known for.
We didn’t get to see the the Ballard operation in action, but the tour through the facility gave our group a deep understanding of the scope and magnitude of the Ballard’s aquaculture enterprise. When we exited the building, the sun was just setting across the water, providing us a spectacular view and setting the stage for the extraordinary seafood meal at The Oyster Farm Eatery.