BIDDEFORD – People are often given labels and titles throughout their lives, and for Biddeford resident, Abigail Carroll, she never thought one of them would include “accidental oyster farmer.”
“If you had told me 5 years ago that I was going to be back home in Maine, with an oyster farm, I would have thought you were joking,” she said.
Five years ago Carroll was living in Paris, France and working in the world of stocks, bonds, and high finance.
“I worked as a consultant and traded stocks and bonds,” she said. “Things that I could do from home and for the most part, I had a clean and easy life in Paris.”
But as Carroll says now, “something was missing from my life.” Something didn’t seem right.
Carroll had majored in French literature in college and thought living and working in Paris was the one thing that would make her happy.
But one summer she decided to come home to Biddeford for a few months and see if she could find another direction for her life. Because of her background in business, she wrote a business plan for a friend that would help him start an oyster farm.
“I’ll write the business plan, but I’m not getting my hands dirty,” she said. “Little did I know how that would change.”
For Carroll, the friend who influenced her to invest large amounts of time and money turned out to be more of a fraud than a friend and because she had invested so much, in so many ways, she wound up “owning the farm.”
“That was not in the plan – at all,” she said with smile and laugh. “So I bought a pair of old hip waders and started farming.”
During the first year in business, she learned to haul pots, clean ropes and lines and sort bags of oysters. “By the end of the day, I was usually covered in mud and starving.”
Slowly, Carroll started to see measurable results from her work and she established relationships with wholesalers throughout southern Maine.
In a way, Carroll said that her oyster farm experiences many of the big issues that affect our global environment. She has seen first hand, the effects of raging ocean storms, the problems associated with pollution and toxins from the land, and how a changing climate may impact the shores of her home state.
Her farm has grown over time, and she is the first to admit every day she continues to process information gathered in the hopes that her stock will improve and she will become more successful. To date she has.
Nonesuch oysters are now found in restaurants and markets throughout New England and Carroll herself is often asked to speak with students and other groups about the environment or other aqua farming issues.
In some ways, she likens her success to the way she first learned French. “At 15, I spent a year at a French high school. I had to learn French to pass my classes,” she said. “There, I watched, I learned, I observed, and I imitated.”
To become a successful farmer, she has done the same things. “I have just worked at it day after day.”
“On the waterfront, they don’t call me the ‘Oyster Lady’ because I’m necessarily good at it. They call me that because I’m out there every day.”
For more information on Carroll, her farm, or her oysters, go to: www.nonesuchoysters.com