Tools & Links for Commercial Farmers

Water Quality & Coastal Flooding
VDH Growing Area Classification Program information

 The Virginia Department of Health, Shellfish Safety routinely monitors the water quality of all waters where shellfish are grown to ensure that harvesting only occurs from very clean water. The coastal waters are broken down into “growing areas” which are monitored and given a rating – as either approved for shellfish harvest, or condemned, meaning not approved for shellfish harvest. Keep in mind that waters approved for the direct harvest of shellfish must be much cleaner than waters for other activities, like swimming or fishing.

VDH Division of Shellfish Safety put together a series of short videos to address industry questions that arose during the Virginia Aquaculture Conference (January, 2022) and to provide transparency on the Growing Area Classification Program.

Industry Events & Trade Shows 

These events are geared toward growers to provide relevant educational content. Consider investing in these key networking events to meet other growers, learn about a variety of suppliers, researchers, agency representatives, and industry leaders. 

Grants & Cost Share Programs

There are grant opportunities to expand your business, test an idea to improve efficiency and/or conserve the natural resource, and restore oyster bottom habitat.

  • The Governor’s Agriculture & Forestry Industries Development Fund (AFID)
    The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) team excels at helping entrepreneurs and expanding agribusiness companies navigate local, state and federal business assistance resources, as well as industry-specific partnerships.  There are two grant opportunities outlined below that shellfish farms should consider.
    • AFID Facility Grants - For new or expanding agriculture or forestry businesses               
    • AFID Planning Grants - For local agriculture or forestry-based economic development programs
      (develop strategic plans, feasibility studies, business or marketing plans, etc)
  • Virginia Fishery Resource Grant Program (FRG)
    A competitive grant program to fund commercial fishermen who have ideas to conserve the resource and improve fishing efficiency.  The program will not fund a start-up business or fund a business expansion. 
  • Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Aquaculture Initiative
    A cost share program for spat-on-shell culture which restores oyster bottom habitat.  The Federal investment covers bottom restoration (with shell) and the private investment covers planting an overlay of spat-on-shell.  
Advocacy - Industry Trade Associations

Consider supporting your local industry trade association along with regional and national associations as you are able. Membership is crucial to fund advocacy on behalf of the entire industry.  Associations track local, regional, and national issues, meet with lawmakers and in many cases shut down potentially damaging legislation before it hits the floor.  Much of what they do is behind the scenes and membership support is critical.

Marketing, Sustainability, & Tourism



The Virginia Marine Products Board is the marketing arm of the Virginia Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS).Virginia Marine Products Board

Their website is a great resource for businesses and consumers, which features an oyster aquaculture page highlighting the regional flavor profiles, where to buy local Virginia seafood, growers directory. Send an email to be added to the retail and grower list.

  • Virginia Sustainable Seafood Guide 
    A pocket guide to promote sustainable, local choices of seafood.  This guide development was a collaborative effort funded by the Virginia Fishery Resource Grant Program (FRG).
  • Sensible Seafood Program 
    A Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center Program promoting local and sustainable sources of seafood.  Learn more and consider becoming a partner in the program.
  • NOAA Fishwatch 
    U.S. Seafood facts and sustainability information to inform seafood choices; provide up-to-date information on the status of wild capture and cultured marine fish; and inform how U.S. seafood is responsibly harvested and grown under strong monitoring, management and enforcement. 
  • Virginia Oyster Trail 
    A trail guide promoting tourism and increasing awareness of the benefits of Virginia oysters to our economy and environment.  The trail features oyster farm tours, restaurants, agri-artisans and more.  Membership opportunities are available – check it out.
  • Virginia Tourism Corporation – Virginia is for Oyster Lovers!