Ben Warren knows the secret to producing trophy-winning oysters – and he’s got the stick to prove it.
The Independent Bay of Islands farmer wooed fellow growers at the New Zealand Oyster Industry Association conference, taking home the Kerikeri Cup for the best of stick of mature oysters.
“A stick is a 25mm x 25mm, by 1.2m long stick taken straight off an oyster farm,” Ben explains.
“Traditionally a good stick will hold 5 dozen oysters – that’s the perfect amount and what the judges are looking for is the density, shapes and sizes of the oysters.”
Some growers put a lot of time into producing the perfect for the judges – but Ben reckons his are just naturally perfect.
“We just go out and grab any old thing – they’re all perfect on our farms,” he jokes.
“Actually, it’s been hard in recent years, because production has been down, to find good sticks.
“But we look after our sticks to maintain the best density on them, in order to produce the best quality oysters.”
This is the second time Ben has taken home the award and says it great source of pride among farmers.
“It’s an honour to win,” he said.
“We’ve been trying for the last 10 years – usually it’s very fierce competition because everyone wants to show off the best of what they can do. It also gives you bragging rights on the day.”
Ben also took home the Orongo Cup for the best caught 6-month stick and the Parua Bay Trophy for innovation for improvements he’s made to an oyster grading machine.
Clevedon Coast oysters also took home three awards, as well as owner Callum McCallum and wife Jan being recognised for providing outstanding service to the Association.
Pacific Marine Farms were given awards for the best dozen unopened mature oysters, and the best dozen unopened 6-month old oysters.
While Mike and Janet Fleming of Flamingo Oysters won the best recipe award for their original oyster muffins. Yum.