Neighbor Profile: Hog Island Oyster Company

The name Hog Island reportedly came from a bizarre 1870s incident when a barge carrying a load of pigs caught fire and was grounded on the island to avoid sinking, at which point the pigs escaped onto the island until they were rounded up again. The island lends its name to the Hog Island Oyster Company, which produces shellfish on Tomales Bay, several miles south of Hog Island. Now occupying 160 saltwater acres in Tomales Bay, Hog Island was started by marine biologist John Finger and Mike Watchorn in 1983. With a $500 loan, a five acre lease and a starter collection of spat–larval clusters also known as “baby oysters”–John and Mike started raising oysters in Tomales Bay, near the mouth of Walker Creek. Soon, Mike’s friend and part time employee Terry Sawyer joined up full time. Now, John and Terry are partners and continue to run the company, which has expanded to over 200 employees producing more than 3.5 million oysters, clams and mussels a year. They use a technique called “rack and bag”, which uses a mesh bag to hold the oyster seeds, suspended between plastic pipes. Their passion, dedication and attention to detail along every step of the growing and sorting process ensures immaculate quality and consistency in these delicious bivalves. The Boat Oyster Bar at their oyster farm in Marshall is now legendary and weekend reservations go very quickly, so plan ahead. Note that there is zero wifi or cell service out there, so if you’re coming in by Lyft or Uber, just make sure you’ve arranged a ride back. You can also reserve a shuck-your own picnic complete with charcoal grill, shucking tools, condiments and a free shucking lesson. To go oysters and farm tours are available too. They also have a store and restaurant at the San Francisco Ferry Plaza, right across from our McEvoy Ranch store. You can check out more about our oyster growing neighbors, and make reservations,here.