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Jordan Kramer: A true (Maine) Renaissance Man

Maine is pretty magical. Just 30 minutes north of busy Portland, you can quickly end up in what feels like the middle of the nowhere. Earlier this spring we found ourselves driving down a winding road, thickly lined with trees, fallen pine needles, an occasional home tucked in the woods – seemingly heading into the depths of Maine. In reality, we were headed to the outer edge; to the southern tip of one of Maine’s mid-coast peninsulas.

We arrived at a small parking pull off where we met Jordan Kramer, the one man team behind West Bath, ME’s Winnegance Oysters.

Jordan Kramer is a young guy with a big smile (a characteristic you’ll find with most Maine oyster farmers). They are always happy to show you around. He immediately lead us down a dirt path to the edge of New Meadows River, where his small green canoe is tied up. Looking just 50 yards out into the river we saw his old, but charming, blue and yellow modified lobster boat. Our destination. Jordan tells us it’s called the Muffin II and was built in 1987. He bought it used, but didn’t feel right changing the name. What happened to the Muffin I? That remains a mystery.

As we paddled over in the canoe, eventually hop on the Muffin II and head out to his farm lease, he tells us that the boat is where it all happens. He checks and maintains his oysters and equipment, harvests, cleans and culls all on board. Which is one of the best parts about Winnegance Oysters. It’s a small and simple operation. Every aspect of the process is done by Jordan himself. And with a background in wildlife biology, environmental science and the food industry, Jordan’s passion for what he does means he takes great care of these oysters every step of the way.

Like many other great local oyster farms, Jordan buys his oyster seed from the Mother of Oyster Seed herself, Tonie Simmons from Muscongus Bay Aquaculture, just 40 minutes north (we featured her Dodge Cove Oysters last week!). He is growing about 80,000 oysters this year, hoping to expand in the future.

With the sun in full blaze, it was easy to stay out on the boat, enjoying the iconic Maine coast line, but it wasn’t just the scenery keeping us out. Jordan’s obvious passion, you might even say nerdom 😉 for aquaculture, was even more compelling than the nature of it all. He doesn’t just grow oysters. Due to overfishing of sea urchins in Maine, the population has been significantly depleted over the years. Jordan has been working (the method still under wraps) on farming sea urchins to meet the demand for them. The hope being that if we can figure out a way to sustainably farm them, as we do with oysters, it will allow for their wild population to return to a natural balance and begin to thrive again. We could see the excitement in his face as he showed off the progress his little baby sea urchins had made.

He also received a grant in 2017 to experiment with growing littleneck clams alongside his oysters, with the goal of testing his methods and educating others to successfully do the same. And to top it all off, he even builds his own equipment. The yellow cages above are handmade by Jordan, and mimic a type of method called lantern cages.

His favorite parts about oyster farming? The wildlife seen when out on the river – birds of prey, pogies, short nose or Atlantic sturgeon, dogfish – and those late nights during the summer just before sunset when the water is perfectly calm. When he is not out on the water, you can find him fishing for striped bass, or playing the saxophone and keyboard in his spare time. A true (Maine) renaissance man!