By Lauren Moore, Public Affairs Specialist
After lobstering for 16 years, David Cheney became a full-time oyster producer in 2012.
Cheney owns and operates Johns River Oysters in Lincoln County, Maine, where he produces American cocktail oysters. Oysters from his operation are sold to distributors servicing restaurants in Maine, Massachusetts and Georgia.
“I enjoy being self-employed and working on the water,” said Cheney. “Scuba dive harvesting in clear warm water is quite rewarding.”
He designed custom-welded, aluminum work boats for his operation and built three specialized oyster rafts for storage, grading and cleaning. To further grow his business, he is in the process of retrofitting a lobster pound into a seed production facility and a distribution and cold storage dock.
To provide a safety-net for his products, Cheney enrolled his oysters in the USDA Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP). He also utilized FSA’s direct farm operating loans to expand his business and participated in the Farm Storage Facility Loan program (FSFL), which helps producers build or upgrade facilities to store commodities.
Cheney’s knowledge of FSA’s programs and services expanded when he was elected on the Lincoln County FSA County Committee, where he has served for nearly four years and is currently chairman.
“Becoming a committee member is a rewarding and productive activity,” Cheney said. “The low interest loans that I received helped me grow my business when cash flow was stressful. When I became a member, it helped me better understand the different loans offered by FSA.”
County committee members are elected by their peers and are a direct link between the agricultural community and USDA. Farmers on the committee help deliver FSA farm programs at the local level, help decide the kind of programs their counties will offer and work to make FSA agricultural programs serve the needs of local producers.
“The committee is made up of local farmers who understand the economic impacts from weather,” Cheney said. “We help advise the full-time FSA employees, whose job it is to support Maine farms.”