BAR HARBOR— A local leader in mussel farming and a pioneer in Maine’s young scallop industry has branched out to another species.
The de Koning family, who run the Bar Harbor-based Acadia Aqua Farms, has taken over management of Warren Pettegrow’s 50-acre oyster farm in Goose Cove.
The de Konings have a mussel farm in Frenchman Bay and have recently started experimenting with growing scallops. Pettegrow, who owns the Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound, has been spread thin and asked the family if they were interested in taking over the farm, where he grows his Cadillac oysters, said Fiona de Koning, a co-owner and head of operations and sales for Acadia Aqua Farms.
“He really decided he has to concentrate on his other businesses,” she said.
The deal, which had been in the works for the last few weeks, came together after Pettegrow approached the family because he wanted to keep the farm in local hands.
At first, de Koning was hesitant about the idea, saying the timing wasn’t right. But it did fit in with the company’s plan to continue to diversify its business on the water.
“The more legs you stand on, the more likely you’ll be successful,” she said.
Though they will have to get up to speed on the nuances of growing oysters, her team has the know-how to farm in the ocean, a familiarity with the lease area and a background in the business of aquaculture.
“We’re learning how to do this,” de Koning said. “We really want to do this top-notch.”
The company has been leaning on their friend Joanna Fogg, the owner of Bar Harbor Oyster Co., to get going and they plan to sell their oysters through her. De Koning estimated that Pettegrow has between 100,000 and 200,000 oysters that could be harvestable this year, but they still need to grade them.
The family took over management in mid-June after a couple months of working out an agreement. Pettegrow still holds the lease, which is coming up for renewal. After it gets renewed, de Koning said the two parties would start working on transferring it to Acadia Aqua Farms through the Department of Marine Resources.
Oysters have seen a rise in demand recently after many growers saw sales dip at the onset of the pandemic. While working with nature is always a bit of a “hope and a prayer,” de Koning was confident the new venture would go well.
“There’s no reason to think it won’t be successful,” she said.
Pettegrow has been farming oysters at the site, which is technically in Trenton, for more than a decade. His family has owned the Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound for more than 40 years and sold its wholesale business recently to Lobster 207, the Trenton-based lobster wholesale co-op owned by members of the Maine Lobster Union. Pettegrow held on to the restaurant near the bridge to Mount Desert Island but the two parties have been engaged in a legal squabble over their business agreements. Lobster 207 sued the Pettegrows and made claims of embezzlement, theft and breach of contract. The Pettegrow family filed a counterclaim, saying that Lobster 207 broke its agreement with the family and engaged in a smear campaign to get out of contractual obligations.
Pettegrow did not respond to a request for comment.