By Annie Fitzgerald, A&K Shellfish
I still vividly remember the phone call that drastically altered our lives. It was 2008 and my husband Craig and I were enlisted in the US Army and stationed at Fort Irwin, California. I was in the field living in a simulation Iraqi town in the middle of the Mojave Desert. During this rotation, I was providing medical aid to our units and also helping train soldiers that were getting ready to deploy. Craig had just finished packing his U-Haul and was on his way to Fort Hood, Texas. After several months of persistent phone calls, I had secured orders to transfer duty stations and reunite with him in Texas.
I was standing outside of our makeshift aid station and my father gave me the devastating news. He had been diagnosed with a severe health problem and in the blink of an eye, everything changed. Fast forward several months, and we dove headfirst into our new business and were now shellfish farmers. Well, more like shellfish-farmers-in-training.
“A new experience can be extremely pleasurable, or extremely irritating, or somewhere in between, and you never know until you try it out” – Lemony Snicket. This is a wonderful quote that perfectly describes the highs and lows that we have encountered the last four years. I was surprised that a few things that we learned in the Army helped our career change:
- Hurry up and wait, patience is essential part of this business.
- The importance of sensitive items, we just exchanged weapons and night vision goggles for shell tags and cert paperwork. You don’t want to be caught without them!
- The right people around you make everything worth it.
It is amazing to see the different reactions when you tell people what you do for a living. But I guess that should be expected, the idea of harvesting shellfish in the middle of the winter during night time tides does sound a little crazy. In 2012 we were prompted to join the PCSGA and have enjoyed meeting other growers that have abandoned a traditional job in exchange for the ever changing schedule that revolves around the tide.
Currently, we have several farms in progress throughout Western Washington and our goal is to highlight the growing areas that make farming in the Northwest so unique. Craig and I have realized that we are only limited by our work ethic and well, the tide. There is always something to be done but we are grateful to be self-employed and a part of such a wonderful industry. At times we have questioned our sanity. I must admit that I have daydreamed about dropping by the recruiter’s office and reenlisting. But after reconsidering, I know this is where we are supposed to be. Family, friends and farming is the perfect life for us. Thank you for letting us be a part of the PCSGA – we honored to be here.