Earlier this week I traveled to Southeastern Massachusetts where I visited Patty and Rod Taylor of Taylor Bay Scallops. It was an unexpected invitation. Patty had heard about Chefs Collaborative from a current member and got in touch with me about visiting their shellfish farm in Fairhaven Massachusetts. As someone who spent much of her childhood dreaming of becoming a marine biologist, I happily accepted.
Patty and her husband Donny met me along the Cape Cod Canal before the tour. We walked along the canal and Patty told me a little bit more about the Bay Scallops her brother Rod grows. Unlike the larger Sea Scallop, Bay Scallops are smaller, sweeter mollusks that are best served in their shell. Many area chefs use the scallops as an appetizer or accompaniment to an entree. Patty prefers to saute them in garlic and white wine with fresh herbs over pasta and her husband smiles as she shares her recipe
After our walk, we head to the marina where we meet Rod and his crew for a tour of the farm. Rod compliments me on my handshake and we head out to the dock where he shows me some scallop seeds that are being cultivated underneath a trap door in the dock. The seeds are tiny white flecks in the clear water and it was hard to imagine them growing large enough to inhabit the beautiful coral and purple colored shells that litter the beach.
Rod takes us out to the site on a barge. At this point I’m glad that I took the time to switch out of my jeans and cardigan into a pair of gym shorts, t-shirt, and sneakers. The barge is essentially a flatbed truck on water and there are only a few places to hold on to. Luckily, it’s a calm day and the farm is only a few miles from shore.
I notice immediately that there are no other boats in site. I later learn that Rod leases 100 acres of ocean from the towns of Fairhaven and Mattapoisett to raise his scallops. The motor on the barge stops and Rod’s crew of five begin pulling up a line from the water. The scallops hang from long lines of rope in lantern nets (named because of their resemblence of Chinese lanterns) that hold up to 5oo scallops. A minute later a net is pulled from the water filled with bay scallops clapping their shells together. The net is placed on the bed of the barge and seagulls come by to clean up the tiny eels and minnows that have come up with the scallops. Other than a few sea stars and tiny vernal crabs, the nets don’t produce much by-catch.
These particular scallops have been out in the open water for a year and are just being harvested today. Each net weighs about 100 lbs and despite being full of shellfish, they collapse easily like a Slinky. I watch as 4 more nets are pulled up. The scallops are shaken from the nets and put into bins. As we head back to shore, I climb into the cab of the barge to ask Rod some more questions about his operation. Before starting the aquaculture farm, Rod was a marine biologist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. “I like being on the water,” he says. And you can tell he’s happy with his decision to start this business. “I’m the only one in the country farming bay scallops. They’re not particularly easy to grow, and they’re expensive to grow.” This is maybe one of the reasons that Rod also grows and sells Nasketucket oysters – but you can tell the Bay scallops are his passion.
Once we reach shore, Rod thanks me for coming out and starts to move his crew into a room where the just-caught scallops will be cleaned and prepared for delivery. And you can’t get much fresher than that.