On November 19, Williams alum Chris Sherman ‘07 joined current Williams students and faculty at Log Lunch to discuss his work at Island Creek Oysters, a multi-purpose, vertically-integrated company out of Duxbury, Massachusetts. Island Creek Oysters operates a farming facility, wholesale and distributor shop, retail store, restaurant group, and aquaculture foundation.
At Williams, Sherman was an English major and Maritime Studies concentrator; he became involved with the Center for Environmental Studies (CES) after spending a semester in the Williams-Mystic maritime program and completing a thesis through CES. Today, Sherman is a shellfish farmer, aquaculturist, and CEO/President of Island Creek Oysters, a hugely successful company that found its foothold in the seafood industry through public relations and advertising campaigns, intensive networking and communication with chefs and restaurants, and a vertically integrated farm-to-table model that focuses on high-quality, low-impact shellfish farming.
Sherman noted that while aquaculture is relatively new to the U.S. and Europe, globally, people consume more farmed fish than wild fish today. Individuals are also eating more protein than ever, and shellfish, particularly oysters, offer a highly sustainable form of protein compared to beef, pork, poultry, and even other fish, whose farming results in elevated levels of disease, genetic drift, bodily waste, and nutrient overload. Sherman told the audience that oysters are biologically suited to live in ‘cramped’ farmed areas where they are native, require only small amounts of feed to thrive, and provide ecological benefits such as increasing water quality through algae removal.
Yet despite their valuable potential to replace greenhouse-gas intensive proteins, oysters are an expensive high-brow commodity and thus inaccessible to most populations worldwide. Overcoming this obstacle is embedded in the company’s ethos, which views oyster farming as the future of sustainable food systems. To this end, the Island Creek Oyster Foundation, a 501(c) under the company’s umbrella, supports oyster aquaculture efforts in marginalized communities by building and maintaining infrastructure to encourage an “affordable, environmentally sensitive form of protein in areas where it is badly needed.” The Foundation previously supported such initiatives in Haiti and East Africa to facilitate place-based and environmentally-sustainable food sovereignty.
Sherman was excited to speak with Williams students and emphasized his belief that making oysters an accessible, equitable, and affordable protein source within global food systems is essential to human health, climate change mitigation, and local economies. His work at the Island Creek Oysters reflects his commitment to promoting shellfish aquaculture as a farming method with massive potential for positive impact.
The entree for this week was spicy butternut squash pasta, accompanied by roasted carrots in a maple tahini sauce along with cranberry slaw. Cheese and chive biscuits complemented the entree. The butternut squash was sourced from farmer Nick Chenail. Spinach and coconut squash came from Bigfoot Farm, garlic and parsley from Peace Valley Farm, and the Maggie’s Round cheese from Cricket Creek Farm.
BY SABRINE BRISMEUR ‘22