Sounds like the title of an intriguing novel, doesn’t it? Well, just a few moments with Chris Buck, owner and farmer at Ruby Salts Oyster Company, and you’ll know he’s a great story unto himself. The family man who’s right at home waist-deep in the waters of Cherrystone Creek tending to his oysters is just as comfortable teaching noted Cookbook author and Southern Living contributing editor, Rebecca Lang, how to harvest oysters, as he did not too long ago here at Bay Creek.
When it comes to Eastern Shore oysters, Chris Buck is the expert. But this Richmond-born mollusk-man would be the first to tell you he didn’t set out to be an oyster farmer here on the shore. (He’d also tell you that mussels and oysters are not at all the same!) Chris grew up visiting his grandparents who lived on the Eastern Shore where he enjoyed nature and being outdoors, hunting and fishing. But later during his college years at Hampden Sydney, he found himself spending even more time in the area and discovered that the people who lived here were one of the best things about this special region.
“I always liked the area but when I came here and really started meeting folks, it got to be about the people,” Chris remembers. No surprise he made fast friends— his easy-going attitude could bring just about anyone out of their shell. So when a friend suggested to him that oyster farming was ‘becoming a thing,’ he thought he’d check it out.
And though he’d never tried it before, he quickly learned the ropes of raising oysters. Before long, he had perfected his craft and in 2010, Ruby Salts Oyster Company was born. It’s a true family business—Chris’s wife, Jennifer, is instrumental in the success and daily operations of the company. They both love what they do, personally and for the greater community. It’s an enormous benefit having top-quality, locally grown oysters available here in Cape Charles. And because shellfish farming is a clean, sustainable industry, the benefits go far beyond just good eats—Ruby Salts oysters filter the Bay’s waters preserving and, in fact, creating habitats for shrimp, crabs and fish. “Our oyster reefs are artificial, but they do the same important work as the real thing,” says Chris. “I’ve seen areas that were just muddy flats turn into grassy habitats, teeming with life.”
Ruby Salts Oyster Company raises its oysters in Cherrystone Creek on the lower Eastern Shore, where the Chesapeake meets the Atlantic. Chris says this mixture of seawater gives his oysters an amazing flavor. It’s also the care he takes in raising them. It’s even been said that he ‘whispers sweet nothings’ while he’s out among his oysters in the creek. If happy oysters are tasty oysters, they must like what they’re hearing.
What’s Chris’ favorite part of what he does? “Seeing folks enjoy them—hearing them say ‘mmm’ when they taste them,” he says. That fits right into the Ruby Salts Oyster Company goal. Their mission, in their own words is “to produce the best tasting oysters to ever come out of Virginia waters, delivered direct, with freshness second to none.”
Having enjoyed Ruby Salts Oysters, we say mission accomplished!
Ruby Salts oysters are enjoyed in eateries throughout Virginia. Locally, you can find them at The Oyster Farm Seafood Eatery at Kings Creek, 500 Marina Village Circle Cape Charles.
Want to know more about what we believe are Virginia’s best oysters? Visit RubySalts.com