AquaCulture and OysterMom

Apalachicola Bay and the “Forgotten Coast” or “Big Bend” area of North Florida were once world-renown for their oysters. Over the last few decades, repeated oil spills, over-harvesting, numerous hurricanes, droughts, the Georgia-Alabama water wars, and new regulations devastated the oyster beds and slowly destroyed the industry. Recently, a new program implemented successfully elsewhere in the U.S., launched here in the hope of reviving this once thriving industry.

At 59, Deborah Keller had never driven a boat. She worked a sedentary desk job for 24 years with the Florida Nature Conservancy after quitting her corporate job and moving to Florida to work as an environmentalist focused on sustainability. Currently as the Director of Strategic Relationships and the liaison to the Department of Defense, she’s essentially an activist and coalition builder.

Through that job, they asked her to be on the board of directors of a new venture, Oyster Aquaculture. But she wasn’t interested. She longed to be an oyster farmer. Three years later, Keller, aka OsyterMom, owns her own boat, runs an oyster farming lease, is in the best physical condition of her life, and is the elected President of the very first oyster aquaculture class at the TCC Wakulla Environmental Institute.

At 52, Michael Barnet lived in Pennsylvania, worked as an authorized inspector for The Hartford Steam Boiler Company, and loved the outdoors as an avid hunter and fisherman. Life was good, until the day a blood vessel in his right eye burst and he lost sight in it. He continued to have professional success until a year later. It happened again, in his left eye.

Michael moved to Tallahassee for their extensive services for the visually impaired, and began learning to live a completely different life. Through happenstance, Keller and Michael met, shared their stories, and Michael asked if she would be willing to take him out. Maybe he could help somehow.

They’ve been an oyster farming team ever since. Their passion for nature, dreams of reviving the oyster business in the gulf, and newfound self-confidence shines through in everything they do, including growing some of the most deliciously briny oysters along the coast of North Florida.

This documentary will explore aquaculture, how oyster farming could affect these small economically depressed areas of north Florida, and how characters like Keller and Michael push for a sustainable future for the Gulf of Mexico.

Posted in