By Belle Hatfield
Eel Lake Oysters has earned the 2012 Taste of Nova Scotia Consumer Choice Prestige Award for its Ruisseau oyster. Eel Lake won in the product of the year category. The awards were announced during the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia (TIANS) annual tourism convention held recently in Halifax.
The oyster farm just outside of Ste. Anne du Ruisseau in Yarmouth County is becoming known for its Ruisseau brand oyster.
The company ships most of its oysters out of the province. Quebec and Ontario are both big customers, but the family-operated business is also seeing local demand increase. Nolan and Kim d’Eon credit the visibility they’ve enjoyed as regulars at several local farmers markets, as well as the increased visibility they’ve enjoyed through programs like Taste of Nova Scotia, with getting their brand better known in Nova Scotia. As this holiday season approaches, customers have begun travelling to the production facility at the family’s home on Eel Lake to put their orders in for Christmas and New Year’s celebrations.
“We do a lot of business around the holidays,” says Kim d’Eon. She says coming to the house to pick up their orders is becoming a family tradition for people from across western Nova Scotia.
Proudly displaying the hand-blown glass platter they received in recognition of their award, the d’Eons were thanking customers recently at the Saturday market in Yarmouth.
Indeed, Janice Ruddock, executive director of Taste of Nova Scotia, says voting by the public is a big part of the awards program that seeks to recognize “the passionate, dedicated people – the farmers, the fishermen, the chefs – who create the artisanal products that make our province a true culinary tourism destination.”
Nominations for the Taste of Nova Scotia Prestige Awards are solicited throughout the year from the public and members. Finalists are adjudicated by a judges’ panel and approved by the Taste of Nova Scotia Board of Directors.
The Taste of Nova Scotia membership base includes 144 quality food producers and processors, as well as a collection of the best restaurants in the province.
For Nolan d’Eon provincial programs like Taste of Nova Scotia and agencies like Le Conseil de développement économique de la Nouvelle-Écosse have simplified the job of growing his markets, leaving him free to concentrate on what he does best: growing his oysters.
The way Eel Lake Oysters grow their product is considered one of the most sustainable forms of aquaculture. The spawn from which the oysters are grown is harvested from the lake in the summer and seeded on concrete-encrusted plastic clutches. Encouraging them to attach to these specially prepared frames is the key to a successful season.
Once seeded, the clutches are moored in the water, where the oysters grow undisturbed until they reach a large enough size to be placed in grow-out cages. These cages, comprising dozens of individualized cells, are suspended just beneath the surface of the water. That is where the oysters will stay until they reach market size.
They are fed by naturally occurring nutrients in the water. When they reach market size, they are re-located to storage tanks, from which they are shipped live to markets.