, 2015

Commonwealth’s oyster
branding began locally

by Renss Greene

IRVINGTON—Virginia hasn’t yet decided the path of its new Oyster Trail, but it began in Irvington.

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Dudley and Peggy Patteson hosted the governor’s entourage at the Dog and Oyster Vineyard on Thursday.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe, joined by Sen. Ryan McDougle, Del. Margaret Ransone, and others traveled to the Dog and Oyster Vineyard in Irvington last week to kick off Virginia’s new oyster branding initiative.

“One of the things I think is really important to remember is that it’s great for us as local officials to tout this, but this was really ya’ll’s idea,” said Sen. McDougle.

The region stands to benefit from the oyster trail. The new marketing initiative to brand the oyster for Virginia (as Maine has claimed the lobster and Maryland the blue crab) is only beginning, and will include an oyster trail akin to the wine trails already popular in Virginia. The website, VirginiaOysterTrail.com, already lays out seven oyster regions, three of which are in the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula.

“We’ve got so many young people that are getting into the oyster business,” said Del. Ransone. “Promoting an oyster trail like this is so good for young people to get their boots off the ground and inject their product into this market.”

The idea began with Dudley Patteson, owner of the Hope and Glory Inn and the Dog and Oyster Vineyard. He said he got the idea from his experience in the hotel business, and knowing of an international hotel organization called Relais et Chateaux, which publishes itineraries of, among other things, oyster tours of France.

“Virginia is missing an opportunity to capitalize on one of Virginia’s treasures, the oyster,” Patteson said. “It appears that Maryland has bested us by claiming the Chesapeake Bay blue crab. I think Virginia would benefit by promoting its oyster.”

Patteson had the vision, but he had to knock on a few doors. Eventually the idea caught the attention of Joni Carter, executive director of Northern Neck Visions, an economic development committee devoted to improve the local economy.

“We looked at bringing in big companies, and we need more infrastructure to get that off the ground, so we looked at what we have already, and how to develop those assets,” Carter said.

As Patteson notes, Virginia has the ideal environment for growing oysters, and at one point in history produced 80% of the world’s oysters.

“I can’t think of any other agricultural industry that has grown like the oyster has in the last five or six years,” Carter said.

“The economy here really hasn’t rebounded, and the only way to get the economy back is to get more people to come to this area,” said Patteson.

“We move very quickly, and we need to,” said Gov. McAuliffe. “You’ve heard me talk about building the new Virginia economy. We face tremendous headwinds in Virginia because of the defense cuts.”

Patteson and Visions worked together to bring the idea to fruition, garnering support from numerous state agencies and the governor’s office, leading to an event at the executive mansion in Richmond Tuesday, August 19, to kick off the initiative.

“Dudley is brilliant with ideas,” Carter said. “We couldn’t have done this without Dudley, and Dudley couldn’t have done it without us.”

“Joni Carter got it and sacrificed a lot, like many of us, to get this thing launched,” Patteson said.

“You’ve all come together, and partnerships are key,” said Rita McClenny, president and CEO of the Virginia Tourism Corporation. “That can continue to build every day, not only for your generation, but for the next generations to come.”

Everyone involved seems to see the oyster trail as a way to bring people into the area, boosting the economy and the area’s oldest industry.

“Those that are involved are absolutely passionate about it, because they see the economic benefit involved,” Patteson said, adding: “Eating is not a bad way to get to know a place.”

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