Welcome to the
Laughing King Oyster Company
We are a family owned and operated oyster farm striving through dedication and innovation to grow the best oysters on the Atlantic Coast. Our Laughing Kings can be found at the highest quality Restaurants and Raw Bars in the Hampton Roads region, and now you can enjoy the best the east coast has to offer in your own backyard.
Our farm is in the pristine waters of Old Plantation Inlet, a wooded waterway on the far southern end of the Eastern Shore where the Chesapeake Bay meet the Atlantic. It is a place that has long been locally famous for its oysters in a region that is internationally renowned for oyster and clam aquaculture. As a small family operation, we manage all aspects of cultivation, and personally nurture our oysters from the moment they arrive to us as tiny "seed", to when they are harvested, washed, and packaged for market.
With its mix of fresh and salt water, the Chesapeake Bay is an ideal Oyster nursery, resulting in excellent oyster health and astonishing rates of growth. The Oyster on the right is less than a year older than the one on the left.
From Seed to Market
Oyster farming begins with ordering hundreds of thousands of tiny “seed” oysters from a hatchery, and ends 1-2 years later with washing, bagging, and delivering full grown oysters.
We buy our seed throughout the summer from several different hatcheries around the Chesapeake bay
Throughout the year, we tumble our Oysters weekly, split them when they fill their bags, and protect them from predators.
When the oysters are ready for market, they are pressure washed with Bay water, bagged, and put on ice immediately on arriving at our dock.
On harvest day, we pull the Oysters out of the water in the morning and delivery them to our customers on ice throughout the day. It doesn’t get any fresher than that.
Life On the Farm
Oyster rocks full of wild oysters surround our farm, a testament to the excellent growing conditions
Sunset on the farm
Our racks bear out of the water at low tide, mimicking natural conditions
A bowl of Laughing Kings, ready to enjoy
Loading bags on the boat for splitting
Our Great Pyrenees Lampo (Lightning in Italian), usually accompanies me on the water
Morning at low tide
Oysters drying out at low tide
At the helm of our custom built oyster barge
Our grow out process produces a very strong shell and defined “hinge”, making shucking easier
The purple stripe that adorns most young oysters usually fades as they grow older, but some retain them through to maturity
Oysters from the same batch of seed grow at radically different rates. All the oysters in this photo are the same age
Our racks are positioned so that our oysters are exposed to the open air every low tide, the way oysters have evolved to live for millions of years.
A pretty young Oyster about 6 months old
Nearly market size
You cant beat
The chesapeake bay
Our farm is located at the southern tip of the Eastern Shore peninsula, where the Chesapeake Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean. The mix of pure sea water and fresh water runoff from the rivers along the western shore of the Bay creates an ideal environment for the growth of Oyster food, such as phytoplankton and microalgae, and hence for Oysters themselves.
In 1608, John Smith sailed into the bay and wrote back that the Oysters lay “as thick as stones”, and it is estimated that the Oyster population at the time could filter all 19 millions gallons of the Chesapeake Bay in 2 or 3 days. In the 20th century, disease and over-harvesting have reduced wild Oyster populations to 1/100th of what they were back then, but that trend appears to be slowly reversing, likely due to natural selection and evolved immunity to disease.
Modern cultured, or “farmed” oysters, are spawned from genetically resistant broodstock and raised in hatcheries until they’re ready for the stresses of the outside world, so their survival rate is high and there is no negative impact on wild populations. A large percentage of the shells from farmed Oysters are collected from local restaurants and raw bars and “planted” back into the bay to serve as a place for wild Oysters to strike.