Some people dream about living near the water and visit from time to time. A few people make it happen in retirement or a hopeful business venture. Some have been near water their entire lives.
I’ve always enjoyed the water and time I’ve spent in “Rivah” and beach towns. When you’re on vacation and seeking that “relaxation mode” it can be easy to overlook the people who are actively working every day to make that weekend getaway possible. It can be easy to sleep past the crop fields on the last leg of the trip. It can be all too easy to plop down at a waterfront restaurant at sunset, enjoy an Oyster Rockefeller appetizer and not give a second thought to the work it took to get those oysters on a plate.
During our most recent seminar to the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula of Virginia, we had the chance to meet with Logan Kellum, a fourth generation oyster farmer in Richmond County. [As a geography side note, Richmond County is not really close to Virginia’s capitol, Richmond City.] Logan is a senior at Rappahannock High School and is a member of the school’s FFA chapter. When we arrived, he greeted us and quickly jumped into the history of the family business.
Logan’s great grandfather, W. Ellery Kellum, open their oyster shucking house in 1948. Since then, their business has grown and they now harvest, pack, and sell Kellum brand oysters, live oysters in-shell, and fresh or frozen oysters on the half shell. The Kellum product has a long standing reputation for quality in local markets and the in the restaurant industry. The Kellum family also takes water quality and conservation very seriously. Their family teaches us advocacy is vital to the success of a business. If you aren’t willing to take a seat at the table, then you could be on the menu. They work cooperatively and with diligence to make sure watermen can continue responsible harvesting for generations to come.
There is so much nuance and so many intricacies in the seafood industry. It takes people who are fully invested and who know all of the ins-and-outs to make it work. The Kellums understand the importance of this and provide excellent employment opportunities that offer training, mentorship, and great compensation. The employees at Kellum are highly skilled, knowledgeable, and happy to be there. Logan is fully invested in the family business. He has a plan to return to the oyster beds full time after high school and he is looking forward to the day he’ll be able to pass the business and his watermen’s license on to his children.
It is clear how passionate Logan is about the oyster business; if not for his enthusiasm and positivity, then his knowledge of every step in the process. He is out on a boat, studying the ecology of the water every day. He knows his equipment. During our tour, he could demo and explain every step of processing. He works with integrity and takes food safety and quality very seriously. Logan is pleasant and eager to share with others. Safe to say, I was impressed!
I am certain Kellum Seafood will be in good hands. There are young people like Logan all around the world who are giving their all and upholding the best traditions of agriculture. Farmers in this part of the state support a natural environment and an industry that relies on healthy water, neighbors working together, and a commitment to quality products. Their work makes a difference in our world. As for me and my weekend getaway, I’m looking forward to my next waterside seafood dinner.