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Oyster Farmer


Up in Blackfish Creek, Clint Austin’s shellfish farm looks like a lot of aquaculture grants in Wellfleet. During the season, you see bags of oysters strapped to rebar racks set out in tidy rows. But there’s something different about Clint’s farm. For years, he has been hauling shell to build a massive reef, abundant with oysters for picking even in the winter.


My mother, Barbara, has been shellfishing for her entire adult life, basically. From almost the moment I was born, she was out there on the tide dragging me around in the little fish tote.


So, my mother's farm was on Indian Neck Beach. All through my high school years, and through the time I was at college, I continued coming home and working with her. Caleb Potter used to work with her neighbor, Richard Blakeley, and at times on early morning tides he would call us the “arguing Austins” <laugh> because I would want to do things one way. And it was Barbara's farm, and she wanted things to be done the way she wanted them to be done. We generally were a good team. We got along well enough, I would say, to get the job done.


I finally branched off and got my own farm around the corner in Blackfish Creek. It was a little bit scary getting going at first without having the protection and the watchful eye of my mother who taught me everything. But it was a great feeling to get established and to have my own scene going on.


When I first started out, my idea was to build a reef. I really wanted and liked the idea of having an oyster reef that would be something I could work yearround, even in the wintertime.


Once I started to establish the reef, I seeded it with oysters, and then I just continued to build up more and more shell. And over the years now they've started to finally become established. I've been harvesting off the reef now for eight or 10 years.


I turned 40 this year. Yeah, it's hard for me to say. I didn't think I'd ever say that. <laugh>. I don't feel it, but I am 40 now.


I have two boys, eight and 12, and they definitely both show an interest. They don't want to necessarily go out there and work too hard, but they enjoy being on the farm. I would love to imagine a third generation of Wellfleet oyster fishermen and farmers. That would be very cool to me.


An oyster reef, if I build it correctly and continue adding to it, even if I stopped, it would theoretically continue on for generations. I joke with my \ neighbor, I'm building an oyster reef for the kids, so when I die, they’ve got something to come out here and work on, something to remember me by. <laughs>

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