CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Did you know the very first oyster farm in Texas is right here in the Coastal Bend?
After a long legislative battle, the founder of Water Street Restaurants, Brad Lomax, was able to create the Texas Oyster Ranch in Aransas County.
He's now working on the next chapter of his legacy with his first harvest of oysters.
“Coastal Bend needs to own this,” Lomax said.
Last week, Lomax harvested his first bunch of oysters after starting the ranch two years ago.
A couple thousand arrived at Water Street Oyster Bar where the Lomax family and State Rep. Todd Hunter tried the first few.
It marked the very first sale of farmed raised oysters since it became legal in Texas.
“They just really feel like they’re fresh and crisp, and kind of a little bit of a grassy flavor. Some salty notes which is really good,” Chela Vela said, general manager at the restaurant.
It took about 10 months for this current batch to reach maturity. Lomax is hoping the future harvest only takes nine months.
He said there are 5,000 to 7,000 more oysters in the water, almost ready to go.
As the Texas Oyster Ranch gets used for production, more restaurants will benefit.
"Texas is a brand," said Lomax. "We have 367 miles of coastline. I think we’re going to make a significant impact on the oyster mariculture industry nationwide as more and more people get into it.”
"I think it really fits with our core values," said Vela. "Giving back to our community and kind of impacting sustainability."
Lomax was the first to receive a permit to create an oyster farm. He now believes there are a few more that have started up.
What Lomax wants people to know is an oyster farm benefits more than just restaurants.
“What we do out there benefits and improves the bay systems, takes pressure off the wild product," he said. "So we’re helping the bay system to provide your oysters."
The Harte Research Institute is also helping on that front, taking the oyster shells and putting them back in the water to protect shorelines.
“All of our oyster shells get recycled back into the bay," Lomax said. "So, it’s almost a perfect closed-loop recycling program that ends up in dollars for the restaurateur and a benefit for the environment.”
Lomax is in talks to provide oysters to some more Coastal Bend restaurants. Places in San Antonio, Houston, and Austin have expressed interest, as well.
Vela said the first crop of oysters has been at the Oyster Bar for a week now and will probably only last a few more days. Now is the time to grab them while you can or you may be waiting a few weeks for your next chance.