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The Norumbega Boys

Eric Peters greets us wearing a proud “Bates Dad” hat, and says the guys have been looking forward to this. I can only imagine who these “guys” are that are looking forward to having their picture taken. Usually farmers are on the slightly reserved side, shying away from the camera. Well, turns out this crew is quite different. A cast of characters. A band of brothers bonded by their long days and hard work out in the salty air of one of the most beautiful parts of Maine.

As we head down the dirt driveway and out towards the river, we catch a glimpse of the farm crew in action. Jutting out into the Damariscotta River is an island of floating upwellers that includes float space for sorting oysters out in the sunshine. As we approach you can hear the sounds of Eminem coming from a small speaker buried within their gear.

“Is this your pump up music?”

They explain that they are motivated by all kinds of tunes out on the water – on any given day you can hear Beethoven to Eminem to Five Finger Death Punch.

We are out in Edgecomb, ME on the Damariscotta River visiting Norumbega Oysters sea farm. It is early spring, the river is quiet, and only a few farmers and eager fisherman are out pacing the river. Despite Mainers who say it’s the worst time to visit Maine, the beautiful sunshine and the sounds of silence tell us otherwise.

Eric Peters (and his wife Nellie) are the growers of this iconic Maine oyster. As Eric leads us out to the water he explains that he is also a carpenter who builds and sells floats. The guys working for Eric are a crew of misfits; Tony and Peter (brothers) and two other guys, both named Chris. They are practically family, Eric explains. Though not technically related (except for the pair of loud and proud Italian brothers) they spend their free time doing things together (group ski trips to Sugarloaf) like they are. Eric has even dedicated time to teaching Tony how to build floats, and in turn, Tony speaks very highly of Eric – he’s the best boss he ever had.

“We’re a happy group.”

They are also a loud group. Tony, in particular (seen below trying to throw their farm manager, Chris, in the water). We happened to stop by on his last day before being deployed to Japan with the navy. His brother, Peter, the quieter brother of the two gives him a hard time about being a field nurse, while Chris laughs to himself and continues to sort. All the while we are chatting with the crew, they don’t stop working. Culling, counting, sorting, moving cages of oysters to the upwellers and back. Despite the distraction of conversation, they remain focused.

Eric Peters has build a strong business with his oyster farm, having grown 1.3 million oysters last year, with plans to expand in the coming years. Despite the high volume, though, the product remains top quality. He produces a clean, meaty and overall balanced oyster that is often named as a favorite among New Englanders. But get this…Eric doesn’t eat oysters! Some might argue that doesn’t make him a “real” oyster farmer, but when you try one of the Norumbegas, there is no denying they still rank among the best. Besides, he’s got a crew of guys who are happy to taste the product for him.

The energy of this crew, plus the unbeatable landscape of the Damariscotta River makes it tough to leave this farm. They have a way of making you want to quit your job, throw on a pair of Grundéns, join the team and become a full time Mainer.