RI Applied Shellfish Farming Course

Background

For about 20 years, Professor Dale Leavitt has been providing prospective shellfish farmers in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and elsewhere in the region an in-depth education on starting a shellfish farm operation. The course began in MA when Dr. Leavitt was at Woods Hole Sea Grant, teaching at the MA Maritime Academy. As the oyster industry began to grow in Rhode Island in 2003, Leavitt began teaching the course at RWU where he now serves as a tenured faculty in biology. Now, the only course of its kind in the region, many are signing up to learn from a seasoned expert in an interactive, informative, casual setting. Over the years, Leavitt has reached hundreds of individuals, many going on to start successful farming operations in the region.

“Roger Williams professor a guru for aspiring shellfish farmers” Providence Journal, March 2015

The course, formally offered through The Roger Williams University Center for Economic and Environmental Development begins enrolling students for the course in December every year. The non-credit course offered during the winter/spring semester teaches both aspiring shellfish farmers and aquaculture professionals the ins and outs of commercially growing oysters, quahogs, and other shellfish species. The 14-week program is led by Leavitt but often guest speakers, from state agencies to growers, assist in lending real-world advice to students. The course is designed to aid new and experienced shellfish farmers to start or grow their shellfish farming enterprise in Rhode Island and other areas of Southern New England.

Topics in the course include: an overview of shellfish farming, shellfish biology, farm site selection, the permitting process and regulatory aspects of securing and maintaining a lease, an overview of shellfish nursery and grow-out systems, risk management strategies, other technical aspects of shellfish farming, and business and marketing management advice. Professor Leavitt complements the class with mentoring and site visits, remains in contact with many participants, and advises shellfish farmers internationally.

While the Applied Shellfish Farming Course is not a requirement by the state to grow shellfish, CRMC considers the course an important learning opportunity for prospective shellfish farmers. Aspects of the course are also required for individuals wishing to apply for a Recreational Aquaculture Permit in Rhode Island (Those classes marked with an asterisk on the course syllabus) – For more information about the Recreational Aquaculture Permit, contact Dale Leavitt at oysters@rwu.edu or Dave Beutel at dbeutel@crmc.ri.gov.

  • The in-person Applied Shellfish Farming course is held at the Roger Williams University Bristol campus on Tuesday evenings from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. The introductory class begins January 10 and continues through April 25.
  • The fee for the course is $75 per individual, family or business group, which covers access to the online training modules. Following payment of fee password access will be granted.
  • Interested participants alternatively may attend the classes on a drop-in basis for $10 per class.
  • Pre-registration is preferred by contacting Dale Leavitt at oysters@rwu.edu