Four Questions with a GS professor involved in growing Georgia’s oyster production

Blakeley Bartee

Jennifer Sweeney Tookes, assistant professor of anthropology at Georgia Southern University, is involved in a multidisciplinary research project aiming to develop environmentally sustainable oyster farming methods in Georgia.

The project, which includes collaborators from Emory University and the University of Georgia, incorporates disciplines like anthropology, economics, marine biology, political science and seafood safety.

“Our ultimate goals are to increase the potential for environmentally sustainable aquaculture of oysters in Georgia,” Tookes said. “We have a really historically and culturally vibrant fishing and aquaculture and seafood industry in Georgia that has really struggled over the last 10 to 20 years because of environmental regulations, which are necessary, but also because of increasing fuel costs and increased imports of imported seafood.”

According to a GS press release, Georgia has had low volume oyster harvests as a result of the fact that “Georgia’s oyster industry is built upon wild harvest strategies of clustered oysters where harvest is conducted by hand and is not cost effective.”

Through the Oyster Agriculture Project, Tookes and her colleagues aim to increase oyster production by developing sustainable farming methods through aquaculture.

Embed from Getty Images // <![CDATA[ // &lt;![CDATA[ // &amp;lt;![CDATA[ // &amp;amp;lt;![CDATA[ // &amp;amp;amp;lt;![CDATA[ // &amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;![CDATA[ // &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;![CDATA[ // &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;![CDATA[ window.gie=window.gie||function(c){(gie.q=gie.q||[]).push(c)};gie(function(){gie.widgets.load({id:’MMG_p0n5S65YjKcto-Sk5w’,sig:’k411asTxW0YY1M0wAzVb21DanW6C9hQwptP3i8ba1eQ=’,w:’509px’,h:’339px’,items:’172203371′,caption: true ,tld:’com’,is360: false })}); // ]]&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt; // ]]&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt; // ]]&amp;amp;amp;amp;gt; // ]]&amp;amp;amp;gt; // ]]&amp;amp;gt; // ]]&amp;gt; // ]]&gt; // ]]>

4 Questions with Jennifer Tookes

Q: How does sustainable food production benefit a local economy?

A: Because the money stays in the local economy. When people are buying seafood that’s produced in Georgia, then that money is going to Georgia companies and Georgia food producers. When we go to Kroger or Walmart and we buy a bag of shrimp that’s been farmed in Indonesia, none of that money is staying in Georgia. And we’re paying for a product that’s of questionable quality that’s been transported halfway around the world to get here.

Q: Have you always been interested in sustainability?

A: I’ve always been interested in food and the people who produce it. And so my initial training was with food and health, and working with Caribbean migrants who came from the island of Barbados to Atlanta, and working with women in issues about food and health. And that led me to the local foods community in Atlanta and working with a professor who worked with fisheries.

Q: Have you had any interesting experiences so far?

A: [My first round of interviews] were wonderfully diverse. As an anthropologist, you set out to do interviews, and you never really know how things will go or what the situation will be like, and it was rewarding and amusing to me to do the first round of interviews and find myself over one and a half days ranging in situations from a huge bachelor pad in rural Townsend, Georgia to a massive property standing outside in the freezing cold in the rain doing my second interview, and my third one ended on a couch in midtown Savannah.

Q: What should students know about sustainable farming or food production?

A: We need to all be asking where the food we’re eating comes from. That to buy local food is generally more expensive, not because anyone’s getting rich, but because that’s the true cost of food. And then if we want to continue to see food producers in the US, we need to support that.