The Farm

“Merroir” – Neologism from French mer (“sea”) + terroir. The complete set of local conditions in which seafood is raised.

In tasting wine, terroir is the flavor that is derived from the sense of place. In the oyster vocabulary merroir tells the flavor story that each oyster is intimately influenced by the area of water it lives in and the nutrients it feeds on enhanced by the currents and tides and the rainfall, temperatures and mineral content of the region. Even when oysters are the same species and grown using similar techniques, location can have a big effect on their flavor.
French Hermit oysters are the Eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) raised in floating cages south of Deer Island in the Mississippi Sound. The farm benefits by constantly flowing salty and nutrient rich waters.

Chefs describe French Hermit oysters’ merrior as having an elegant deep cupped bottom shell with a flat top. The roly-poly plump meat adheres to each crevasse of the cup filling every void. The flavor is a mixture of sweet butter and a crisp marriage of garden and sea with a delicate cucumber finish. Folks eating French Hermits frequently describe them as the best oyster they have ever eaten in their lives. It is hard not to puff up our chests and take all the credit for growing such a tasty oyster, but it is the location as well as the care they receive. That’s why we call them Uniquely Delicious.

The Farmers

Farming oysters fits perfectly with our history of sharing Mississippi oysters and the stories behind them.

Mike and Anita started French Hermit Oyster Co. as soon as Mississippi made an off-bottom oyster aquaculture industry. They love the lifestyle of being on the coast and working out in the Mississippi 

Sound growing beautiful reserve oysters.They are not even young chickens, but they stay young surrounded by their great staff and oyster farming friends.

Can you evangelize oysters?

If you ask Mike Arguelles, you'll not only get a fervent "yes!", but also a freshly shucked French Hermit.

Mike and Anita first met in 1991. When Mike would drive back to Memphis from his home in Biloxi he would bring a sack of oysters and open them impromptu. He said they were a friend making tool. He had a few fans but most of the time people would say "why don't you bring us some shrimp?" Mike and his traveling pop-up oyster bar on the truck tailgate were ahead of its time....half-shell oysters are more popular today.

Anita calls Mike an oyster evangelist. He is not that coiffed hair can you feel the spirit type of evangelist that you hear at a Southern tent revival. He is a steady flow of interesting oyster devotion, information, history, science, and stories…..sometimes real, sometimes made-up but always told with flair about Coastal Mississippi. He loves oysters and has always shared them with anyone who is interested.

Hurricane Bob's Oysters

“Tending oysters is work that I enjoy...can’t say that about most of the other jobs I have had.” – Bob

Robert Smith loves oyster farming. He loves being out on the water, tending the oysters so much that he left his real job as a civil engineer for one of our coastal cities to work on his farm full time. Robert will tell you that his reason for farming oysters off the Mississippi Gulf coast is the joy he receives from watching how fast tiny oysters, called seed, grow and being able to nurture them until they are ready for sharing with people who love to eat oysters.

Oyster farming is not Robert’s first experience working on the water. Robert was Captain for two of Biloxi’s Schooners, Mike Sekul and Glenn L. Sweatman, taking tourists out for a sail. Oyster farming helped Robert get back on the waters of the Mississippi Sound. You can find him heading to the farm to clean, harvest, and split oysters most days. He harvests at least twice a week.
Robert finds oyster farming hard work but rewarding because he knows he is growing something in the wild that helps feed people.

Lee Family Farm

"The Lee Family’s involvement in oyster farming has developed from a general love of the water and Stephen’s passion for growing and nurturing new things." – Lesley

Lesley and Stephen Lee anchor Lee Family Farms, and their operation is truly a family affair since they often solicit help from their three children; Carter, Madie Grace, & Sawyer. In addition, Lesley’s dad, Bobby Lewis, frequently offers his expertise as a boat captain, technical advisor, and chief taste tester. As a youngster, when asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Stephen consistently answered, “a Farmer!” As an adult, he pursued a career in nursing and now manages the surgery department for Memorial Hospital.

Lesley is the planner and organizer of the team. As a chemical engineer for BASF Corporation, Lesley aims to provide structure and organization for the farm. She manages spreadsheets and tracking apps to document things like seed & gear purchases, oyster growth rates, farm cleaning schedules, and plenty more. Their goal is to be a part of the revitalization of the oyster industry in MS by advancing the practice and concept of oyster aquaculture.