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NEW! First-of-Its-Kind Wellfleet Shellfishermen's Farmers Market

Wellfleet farmers market will cater specifically to local shellfishermen (capecodtimes.com) 

A first-of-its-kind shellfish farmers market promises to get oysters from Wellfleet Bay to the dinner plate in record time. 

Shellfishermen will be able to sell their oysters to customers on Saturdays from noon to 2 p.m. beginning this weekend at the Wellfleet Marina. The market will run through May 1.

The initiative came after a monthlong effort led by the town's shellfish constable, Nancy Civetta, with assistance from the Wellfleet Shellfishermen’s Association and Holbrook Oyster. Civetta was able to get approvals from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and Division of Marine Fisheries to hold the event. 

The market will be held in compliance with the considerable policies set forth by both state agencies. Because of concerns about safe handling of fresh shellfish and the need to trace harvest, harvester and sales, Holbrook Oyster has agreed to be the dealer for the market, in addition to selling its own product.

Shellfish harvesters will deliver their product to Holbrook Oyster, which will be responsible for reporting information regarding safe handling and temperature control.

“It’s all about traceability,” general manager Zack Dixon said. 

Dixon said sales so far have been moderate, but the program is young.

“We’re super thankful for the idea of an outlet,” he said of Civetta’s initiative. 

Holbrook will give shellfish harvesters their product on Saturday morning with an attached dealer bag. Harvesters will be required to sell their product from ice-filled coolers.

Tagging regulations will be overseen by the Wellfleet Shellfish Department. The town's health department will issue temporary food service permits to shellfish harvesters. 

The Wellfleet Shellfishermen’s Association will help by making the names of participating vendors available to the public. Orders can be made via the association or by calling a shellfish harvester directly. 

On Tuesday, the Select Board approved Civetta’s request to use the marina parking lot for the weekly event. Civetta admitted getting the market up and running will be a learning experience. “We’ll figure it out as we go,” she said.

The association is trying to do something to help local shellfishermen, as dealers aren’t buying their product and the public has no access to it otherwise, said Ginny Parker, the association's president.

“People don’t realize just how shut down the oyster market is because of the national restaurant crisis,” she said. “Nothing is moving.”  

“The market is a solution on a small scale, but at least it’s something,” she said.

Parker said some shellfishermen she knows have talked about going bankrupt.

“You go bankrupt, you lose your home, you lose the Cape,” she said. 

Sellers will most likely vary by the week, Civetta said. They must sign up by Tuesday to participate in the coming Saturday's market, she said. Buyers, meanwhile, should get their orders in by Friday.

Third-generation shellfisherman Evan Bruinooge said he plans to participate in Saturday’s inaugural market. In the past, he could get 55 to 60 cents for every Wellfleet Select and 50 to 55 cents a piece for petites, which are oysters under 3 inches that are favored by New York City restaurants. 

A first-of-its-kind shellfish farmers market promises to get oysters from Wellfleet Bay to the dinner plate in record time. 

Shellfishermen will be able to sell their oysters to customers on Saturdays from noon to 2 p.m. beginning this weekend at the Wellfleet Marina. The market will run through May 1.

The initiative came after a monthlong effort led by the town's shellfish constable, Nancy Civetta, with assistance from the Wellfleet Shellfishermen’s Association and Holbrook Oyster. Civetta was able to get approvals from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and Division of Marine Fisheries to hold the event. 

The market will be held in compliance with the considerable policies set forth by both state agencies. Because of concerns about safe handling of fresh shellfish and the need to trace harvest, harvester and sales, Holbrook Oyster has agreed to be the dealer for the market, in addition to selling its own product.

Shellfish harvesters will deliver their product to Holbrook Oyster, which will be responsible for reporting information regarding safe handling and temperature control.

“It’s all about traceability,” general manager Zack Dixon said. 

Dixon said sales so far have been moderate, but the program is young.

“We’re super thankful for the idea of an outlet,” he said of Civetta’s initiative. 

Holbrook will give shellfish harvesters their product on Saturday morning with an attached dealer bag. Harvesters will be required to sell their product from ice-filled coolers.

Tagging regulations will be overseen by the Wellfleet Shellfish Department. The town's health department will issue temporary food service permits to shellfish harvesters. 

COVID-19 protocols will be in effect for the market. Unlike other farmers markets where people are allowed to walk around and browse, customers will not be allowed to get out of their cars. Instead, buyers will be required to order in advance. They must bring ice-filled coolers to the market, where upon arrival they will be directed to where they can pick up their orders.

The Wellfleet Shellfishermen’s Association will help by making the names of participating vendors available to the public. Orders can be made via the association or by calling a shellfish harvester directly. 

On Tuesday, the Select Board approved Civetta’s request to use the marina parking lot for the weekly event. 

Civetta admitted getting the market up and running will be a learning experience.

“We’ll figure it out as we go,” she said.

The association is trying to do something to help local shellfishermen, as dealers aren’t buying their product and the public has no access to it otherwise, said Ginny Parker, the association's president.

“People don’t realize just how shut down the oyster market is because of the national restaurant crisis,” she said. “Nothing is moving.”  

“The market is a solution on a small scale, but at least it’s something,” she said.

Parker said some shellfishermen she knows have talked about going bankrupt.

“You go bankrupt, you lose your home, you lose the Cape,” she said. 

Sellers will most likely vary by the week, Civetta said. They must sign up by Tuesday to participate in the coming Saturday's market, she said. Buyers, meanwhile, should get their orders in by Friday.

Third-generation shellfisherman Evan Bruinooge said he plans to participate in Saturday’s inaugural market. In the past, he could get 55 to 60 cents for every Wellfleet Select and 50 to 55 cents a piece for petites, which are oysters under 3 inches that are favored by New York City restaurants. 

“People are lucky to get 40 to 50 cents an oyster now,” he said. “That’s after paying for seed, waiting two to three years for them to grow, harvesting them and paying taxes on them. You’re making money, but not a great price.”

Oysters will cost $1 a piece at the market, 5 cents of which will go to the dealer. For more information, visit wellfleetshellfishermen.org.

Contact Denise Coffey at dcoffey@capecodonline.com. Follow her on Twitter: @DeniseCoffeyCCT.