2020's Top Dozen

From time to time we put together these yearly recaps. And from time to time, we mean: the last time we did this was in 2011. So, it's a decadal undertaking. And 2010, boy: what an age of innocence. Also, how hilarious that we're still in the process of "debuting" our wholesale smoked and pickled oysters?? Hahaha. Maybe we'll complete that project by 2030.

Without going any further down that rabbithole, here are the top 12 things from 2020. (We use the term "things" on purpose... these are the memories, ideas, and innovations that rocked our world. Also: we've left out the communal background... the global pandemic, racial justice reckoning, political unrest, murder hornets, etc.)

12. The Weather - It's raining buckets now, but it was a glorious fall, a relatively mild and peaceful summer, and a sunny spring. Notable asterisks include the wildfires, their attendant smoke, AND a biotoxin bloom in the northern Puget Sound... the bloom didn't impact our home farm, and didn't interfere with our operations too badly (in part because our harvest levels were at record lows due to the restaurant closure). But still. The weather earns a nod, because it could have been way worse.

11. Operation Farmgate - The restaurant closure in March caught us by surprise... we had literally thousands of dozens of oysters and hundreds of pounds of clams on our hands with no customers lined up. So we slashed the prices in our online store and called it "Operation Farmgate" - and boy did our customers respond. Ever since then we've been shipping out bags of oysters and clams to households across the country. It's kept our lights on and our crew on payroll. We stopped using the term "farmgate" once it became clear that restaurants were going to be closed indefinitely... so while we're still rocking the lower prices, it's now just operation normal. 

10. Hama Hama's Got Mussels - One of the first things our team did after the restaurant shut down was to produce this mussel video. We had about 50 pounds of mussels or so that needed to sell through the farm store. It wasn't a ton of product, and we could have just written it off... but instead we put together this video. It took us about an hour from conception to Instagram... we cracked ourselves up on an otherwise crazy stressful day, and sold all the mussels in the process.

9. Lunch Breaks - When we solicited feedback about the year, one of our crew, who has worked in the Saloon on and off since 2014 (when both he and the Saloon were just wee little puppies), said that his favorite thing about the year was "lunch break." Obviously this is an absolutely hilarious response. But as we thought more about it, we realized he's spot on. In the spirit of counting our blessings, we'd like to take a moment to appreciate how the COVID restrictions have allowed our Saloon to operate at a slower pace. We only opened 3 days a week instead of 7, so the crew was able to take a shift meal together at least once a week. And instituting a reservation system helped us control the flow of customers, allowing for more predictable and relaxing lunch breaks during service. We hope to carry these lessons with us into the new year, even as we ramp up our hours of operation.

8. Online Fun & Games -  The oyster trivia Instagram polls every Wednesday during lockdown, and the handful of oyster hangouts we organized, helped us connect with our creative side AND colleagues and oyster lovers across the country. Big thanks to Rowan Jacobsen, Adrienne Anderson, Bryan Rackley from the Kimball House, Julia Sullivan from Henrietta Red, Sean and John from Hog Island, Chris from Island Creek, Rifko from Oysters Xo, and Renee Erickson for joining us in these virtual oyster parties. We'd rather see you folks in person, but seeing you on screen helped stave off the isolation.

7. Online Store Wizardry- Our online store went from handling tens of orders a week to handling hundreds. The crew, led by Justin, has worked tirelessly to improve order and fulfillment accuracy. None of us started working for the oyster farm thinking it would turn into a career in online marketing and merchandising... but here we are!

6. Production Kitchen - We've had a commercial kitchen since 2009, but put our energy into building the Oyster Saloon instead of turning out prepackaged treats. When we shut the Saloon down mid-March, however, we began producing mignonettes, butters, and more to sell through our online store. We can't wait to see what Sara and her team crank out in 2021!

5. Collaborations: 2020 saw us expand our product line, with a little help from our friends. We partnered with Poler on socks, Finnriver on Tideland Cider, Yodelin on soup, Timber City Ginger Beer on delicious douglas-fir ginger beer, and Justin designed some pretty cool custom Ebbets Field hats. We co-marketed with Yonder Cider, Ellenos Yogurt, and Weston Table / OFYR / Tournant on an amazing grill / food giveaway. And we're super excited to have found the canners at Merinos Seafoods, who put our smoked oysters into shelf-stable cans with a bit of olive oil, and rocked our world. 

4. Covid A-Frames - our gnome village of COVID-safe a-frames was dreamed up, designed and built by Adam... chainsaw in one hand, oyster knife in the other... with help from a few of his friends. He kept saying it was the oldest building trick in the book to make your walls your roof. We now have cover for the winter months, two open walls for ventilation, and pleeeenty of space around each table to ensure safe social distancing for Saloon guests.

3. Our Staff - No lunch break is long enough to recuperate from all the stuff that got thrown at our crew this year, and we're so proud of the positivity, creativity, and resilience they showed in the face of these unprecedented challenges. 

2. Staying in Business - we touched on this with Operation Farmgate, above, but it needs to be said again: thank you to everyone who came out to support us this year, whether that meant buying oysters to eat at home, serving them on your patio (or to-go), or swinging by the Saloon and Store and bearing with us while we figured out our operations. Thank you! 

1. Learning & Growing - from learning more about how white supremacy manifests in the workplace, to rethinking old habits, to finally bringing to life ideas that have been percolating around our office for decades: this has been a year of introspection and innovation. Let's keep it up!

One for the Baker: finally sourcing a recyclable insulated box to help us minimize the waste involved with our online shipments.

What's next? Like so many folks after the year we've all had, we are doubling down on our focus on what truly matters. One thing that means here in Lilliwaup is our farming roots. Farming is a long play, and while in 2020 things changed so fast day to day, we're hoping 2021 brings us a renewed opportunity to look as far down the road as we normally do. We'll be concentrating on our beaches, our farm products, and of course, the awesome people who farm them. Stay tuned!

covid a frames at the Hama Hama Oyster Saloon

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