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Purcell's Seafood: A Legacy of Family, Community, and Environmental Stewardship

In 1972, a humble shucking house emerged on the Eastern shore, nestled in the heart of a tight-knit coastal community. Purcell's Seafood Inc. was a vision realized by the dedication of Warren Purcell. The shucking house focused on harvesting wild oysters from the Little Wicomico River, working the waters of the middle bay, where the Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac meet. Founded on the values of family, community and a life lived close to the land, Purcell’s Seafood began its rise as a premier shucking house.

A quickly growing business, Wade and Pat Harding joined the company in 1972 and later incorporated in 1976. For several years, their crew of thirty worked the waters, spending their time managing and harvesting wild oysters.

However, challenges loomed on the horizon in the form of devastating diseases, MSX and DERMO, which wreaked havoc on the local oyster population. During the 1990’s, the entire Chesapeake Bay area suffered a great decline due to pollution and these disease. The farm struggled to keep its employees working and wild oyster populations declined rapidly..

In the midst adversity, Rich Harding, son of Wade and Pat, returned from his service in the Army and the first Gulf War, bringing with him fresh perspectives and a desire to revitalized the farm. Rich believed that the answer lay in innovation and aquaculture. In 2008, Purcell's Seafood Inc. embarked on a groundbreaking journey to farm-raised oysters, leveraging the vast oyster grounds right in their own backyard. 

At the same time, conservation groups, state and federal agencies also banded together to begin to reviatalize the entire Chesapeake Bay region.

Over the next decade, the farm worked diligently to develop and refine methods for farming oysters, growing their aquaculture operations. These methods also included strategies to benefit the Little Wicomico River, the Chesapeake Bay, and the ecosystem at large. Oysters are filter feeders and as the Purcell’s Seafood aquaculture methods began to take hold in the bay, they also began to improve the water quality of the region, which had ripple effects throughout the greater ecosystem. Over time, the population of wild oysters also rose in the waters around the farm, an indication that our farming methods we were working.

This evolution wasn’t without struggle, and our farm and family often faced threats to our way of life in the form of red tides, fish kills, harsh economies and more. As well, developing new ways to grow fresh oysters and help our ecosystem came with their own challenges and learnings as we discovered which methods worked best for our farm.

Today, our aquaculture farm has grown and is producing high quality oysters consistently, year round. The Chesapeake Bay area and the Little Wicomico River as healthier than they have been in years, thanks to the combined efforts of so many organizations. As well, we are seeing wild oysters thriving in our waters and are seeing natural strikes everywhere. 

Our family run farm is looking toward a bright future, working the waters we love to bring you fresh, high quality oysters. Thank you for your support!