The Young Man and the Sea

Through his upstart oyster farming business, Cyrus Buffum is continuing a nearly 200-year-old family tradition of life on the water
June 7, 2018Words by Luis Angel CancelPhotos by Jeff Masamori

 

In the winter of 1853, a vessel captained by one of New England’s great shipmasters set out on a voyage from Boston to Calcutta. Shortly after a monsoon pummelled the ship as it crossed the Indian Ocean, the Captain’s wife went into labor. Alexander Seaborn Wadsworth was born on the Bay of Bengal at 10 pm.

165 years later, the Seaborn legacy is carried on by his great-great-grandson Cyrus Buffum. Continuing the family’s long seafaring heritage, Cyrus has devoted his life to the water—first through racing sailboats, then through waterway conservation and activism, and now as the founder of Seaborn Oyster Co. in Charleston.

"We wanna show whoever is willing to listen that we, as a region, actually produce some of the best, if not the best oysters that are wild and natural…"

— Cyrus Buffum


Cyrus’s innovative, sustainable approach to oyster cultivation is, surprisingly, hundreds of years old. By poring over archival documents he’s learned how the original stewards of his farm—situated in the serpentine creeks of a Revolutionary War battlefield—responsibly harvested oysters back in the 1860s. These techniques were lost through the years as industrialization took over. Now, with a commitment to preserving the historic waterways and their once-famous oyster population, Cyrus is leading the charge and doing things the old-fashioned way.

All of that research and hard work has paid off. Local must-visit restaurants like Leon’s Oyster Shop have made Seaborn one of the most in-demand oyster purveyors on the East Coast. “We wanna show whoever is willing to listen that we, as a region, actually produce some of the best, if not the best oysters that are wild and natural—if we're willing to put in the time and energy,” said Buffum. We nod, anxiously waiting for the go-ahead, then shuck a few on the spot and savor a taste nearly lost to the hands of time. - [H]


 


 

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