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Feature on Eel Lake Oyster Farm Ltd.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Nova Scotia Business Inc. along with its partners and sponsors will present The Nova Scotia Export Achievement Awards, an annual celebration and recognition of excellence in exporting across Nova Scotia, on May 26, 2016. Eel Lake Oyster Farm Ltd. is one of ten companies that will be celebrated at the 2016 provincial EAA awards ceremony in Halifax. 

Nova Scotia Business Inc. chatted with Nolan D’Eon, owner/operator of Eel Lake Oyster Farm Ltd., and his son Colton D’Eon, the plant manager. Eel Lake Oyster Farm is a major producer of the intensely flavoured Atlantic Oyster, with three million oysters growing in the oyster farm at any one time. The company exports 90% of its product to Ontario, Quebec and now New England, with the remaining 10% going mainly to restaurants in Halifax. In 2012, the company won the Taste of Nova Scotia Prestige Award for the Consumer Choice Product of the Year.

Q: Can you share your company’s history in Nova Scotia?
A: Oysters have been harvested from Eel Lake for hundreds of years. When we moved to Ste. Anne du Ruisseau more than 25 years ago to raise our family, we built our home on the shores of the lake and dreamed of making a living from it.

We began Eel Lake Oyster Farm Ltd. in 1996, and what started as a labour of love became a strong family business. Nolan, Kim (Nolan’s wife) and son Colton all work with the oysters, as do two other full-time employees. The oldest son, Nick, is a Chartered Accountant who does the company’s financials; daughter Nicole (who holds a teaching position) helps out doing deliveries at busy times. During the summer season, we hire four part-time employees as well.

We’re proud of our business. We’re sustainable, with a low environmental impact, and we grow quality oysters that are respected worldwide. Visitors are welcome to come tour the site and see the oyster habitat. They may even get a taste of our delicious oysters.

We participate in many events, including wine festivals, conventions, wedding receptions, and tourism events. At the Halifax Port of Wines, we shucked over 3,600 oysters in two days.

Q: What does being recognized by your local business community mean to your business and your employees?
When you’ve worked hard to build your business, and other people recognize you for it, you know you’re doing the right thing. Our employees are mostly family – it’s always a team effort. They say trouble runs downhill, but so does success. It’s nice to know we’re doing a good job and are appreciated.

Q: What factors have contributed to your success?
A: A lot of it is the product we sell. People in the younger generation are eating a lot of oysters, and we have a good product. We’ve been selling oysters for 20 years, with consistent, high quality. A never-give-up attitude is also crucial. As with farming in general, a lot of elements can be challenging, and sometimes you run into hardships. A never-give-up attitude helps you succeed.

Q: What do you consider will be key to your success going forward?
Externally, having a government that supports our business and being able to get seed for the small oysters. Internally, being able to adapt to changes in the food industry and to different trends. Right now, many of the younger generation really care about what they eat, including how it’s grown and whether it’s sustainable.

Q: What was your biggest learning or a-ha moment?
My biggest a-ha moment was when I realized our oysters can compete with better-known brands in the Maritimes. We serve our oysters at a lot of functions, and we often hear, “These are the best oysters I’ve ever had!” At first you think people are saying that to be nice, but when you keep hearing it, you realize that we can keep up with some of the big players.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you would give to new exporters, or companies considering exporting from Nova Scotia?
Don’t undersell yourself. If you know you have a quality product, don’t compare yourself to the people who sell at a lower price on the basis of quantity rather than quality. If you have a good product, stick to your guns. Charge the price you’re worth.

Q: And finally, what’s the best thing about being a Nova Scotia exporter?
A: Nova Scotia is completely surrounded by water. We have abundant resources for aquaculture and seafood. We have the resources to succeed, and we can go as far as we want. The world’s our oyster.

Eel Lake Oyster Farm Ltd. is in Ste. Anne du Ruisseau, in the Municipality of Argyle. In 2015, the company was awarded the Yarmouth and Area Chamber of Commerce Export Achievement Award.

Interested in export? Nova Scotia Business Inc. is dedicated to supporting the growth of business in Nova Scotia and our team of Regional Business Development Advisors is available to assess your needs and provide practical advice on taking your next steps toward growth in global markets.

Stay up to date on Nova Scotia export events by subscribing to our e-newsletter that includes upcoming trade development initiatives that you can participate in and highlights trade activity in Nova Scotia and beyond.