Katama oyster farm gets grant to grow scallops

Ryan Smith has experience raising scallops, but now he will make it a primary focus of his farm.

Signature Oyster Farm in Edgartown is being awarded $66,000 of more than $5.5 million in state grants to address food insecurity across Massachusetts.

Wanting to support those affected by the pandemic, the state awarded Signature Oyster Farm the grant to begin farming scallops.

Signature Oyster Farm is owned and operated out of Katama Bay by Ryan Smith. Speaking to the Times by phone Friday, Smith was still processing the news. “It’s unbelievable,” Smith said. “I’m really excited.”

Smith will scale back his oyster growing, and focus on scallops. Dependent on restaurants for sales, Smith said the oyster farm industry has been “crippled” by the pandemic. Part of the reason to grow scallops has been the uncertain future of oysters. Scallops are easier to cook and store, as opposed to oysters.

“We’re all adjusting to the impacts of the pandemic, and it just kind of showed how bad the Island’s food supply chain could be,” Smith said. “I’m just trying to create another source of access to local healthy food and jobs for our community.”

Since Smith has a well-established oyster farm, he will use the grant money to purchase scallop seed and some new equipment, but much of the equipment he has to farm oysters will adapt well to scallops. The new equipment to grow scallops will last Smith for years to come.

Smith has farmed scallops before, but was mainly focused on oysters, which had been selling well. He had planned to try out scallops this year, but then the pandemic hit, and he didn’t want to take any risks. Now with the oyster demand low and financial backing from the state, Smith is ready to diversify his farm.