What is your current job and what does it entail?
I am comanager of an oyster farm. Together with my husband, I run the farm's daily operations and chart the growth of our venture. Since we are a two-person venture, any workday may start strategically planning our future and end harvesting oysters on the lease. We do the site selection for the different locations where our oysters are grown; we build all our equipment and shepherd the oysters through the different stages of growth; we harvest and bring our oysters to market; we do all marketing and sales; we do the strategic planning and constantly update our projections based on current yields; and we spend a lot of time representing the industry in the state legislature.
What was the key factor in your career decision?
What do like most about your career?
When Eric and I moved to Maine from Boston, we knew that we wanted to have jobs that would allow us to stay in close touch with our families and to build our own. We also wanted to work together, to be physically active, and to have variety in our days. We both come from jobs in corporate settings, so starting and running our oyster farm has been a thrill all the way.
The variety, the flexibility and the freedom. I also love the outdoorsy and physical nature of the work, and I find that relying on the tides, the weather and the seasons connects me to the cycles, adding depth to my work. I also enjoy the way the "office" tasks and the problem-solving round off our days.
What do you like least about your career?
One of the (very few) things I don't like about my career is the need to be on the political defensive. The industry is constantly under attack from groups who prefer a pristine waterfront to a working waterfront. This requires that we spend a lot of time and energy educating legislators about the benign and sustainable nature of shellfish aquaculture. It is challenging to build a business in an environment that's always in flux.
What do you do to relax?
I take walks, make art and read -- and play with our son Maximo.
What advice would you give a high school student who expressed an interest in pursuing a career in your field?
If you're thinking about starting your own shellfish farm, be ready for a lot of surprises and be super flexible with your expectations. Be patient (it takes three years to bring an oyster to market). Be organized and self-driven. And be willing to learn in the field, hands-on, instead of relying on publications and books, which are valuable only to a point. Don't forgo your education -- it's always good to have options.
Are career opportunities in your field increasing or decreasing and why?
Growing, though at what rate is hard to say. There are a lot of startups, but I don't know what the success rate is in the industry. A lot of people get excited about the idea only to find that the life of the farmer is more unpredictable and challenging (though enjoyable) than they may have envisioned.
What will you be doing 10 years from today?
Hopefully, growing oysters!
Salary:$10,000 - $25,000 (NOTE: Owners of well-established aquaculture operations can make $60,000/year or more. Startups tend to be in the red for at least three years -- often four or five -- before they see any money come in.)