Our history with oysters begins with me as a little girl growing up on Cherrystone Creek at the southern end of the Eastern Shore of Virginia, just a few miles from where we live today. I have happy childhood memories of banging oysters open with bricks in my forts along the creek, and being amazed at how they tasted just like home. My father was one of the early oyster farmers on the Eastern Shore, and started growing them in the intertidal area in front of our house in the 1990’s. Our love for oysters bordered on reverence, though they were as commonplace in our lives as mosquitos.
I met my husband Thomas in central Arizona where we attended college in 2004. Thomas was originally from southern Louisiana, a place not unlike the Eastern Shore, before his family moved to central Texas when he was a child. So he certainly had a little bayou in his blood and could relate to my own marshy upbringing. Over the years of our courtship, we would return to the Eastern Shore and Thomas would work on the water helping my dad and other family members in aquaculture. Our life together continued out west for over a decade. As I toiled in small scale agriculture and midwifery, Thomas fought wildfires as a Hotshot and then as a Smokejumper. Always, the call to return to my watery home and to my family was strong, and when we were ready to start our own family, we took the leap. There are no Smokejumping bases on the East Coast, so Thomas became a structure firefighter across the bay in Virginia Beach, and began working on the water on the side as we tried to figure out how we would make a living in this rural place that we love. We ended up settling on a farm on Old Plantation Creek, an inlet that has been famous historically for its oysters. With years of experience under his belt, in 2018 Thomas built our oyster barge and custom tumbler and set out on his own to grow the best oysters possible using a combination of traditional and modern techniques. Chefs immediately recognized the unique product we had, and our only problem since has been keeping up with demand.
We love this life on our farm and on the water, working in and with nature alongside our three children. Thomas walks out our back door and down to the dock to go to work on our remote and beautiful oyster ground, and we get to share many days together as a family. Our passions for good food, sustainable agriculture, hard work, and the Eastern Shore have come together in the production of Laughing Kings, and we agree with the long list of chefs and restaurant customers who’ve told us they’re the best they’ve ever had.