By Sonya Stevens
MCCLELLANVILLE, S.C. (WCIV) – Do you love clams? At least one local farmer works year-round so you can enjoy them even when it isn't the traditional clam season.
Bob Baldwin is a clam farmer who spends most of his time on the water taking care of his crop.
"There aren't enough of them in the wild so there is a market for them and we can grow them," Baldwin said.
He grows the clams for commercial use and has a special permit that allows him to harvest in the summertime.
"If it wasn't for that people would have to get clams from out of state and this is a pristine area out here so if you are getting clams that come from this area then you know you are getting good, clean, healthy clams," Baldwin said.
But getting a good product requires lots of time and hard work: clams aren't simply planted and then harvested.
"You have to take up the seed, if the seed is real mixed you have to take it in and sort it and then bring it back out and plant it," Baldwin said.
The baby clams start out in the nursery and then are moved to the grow out section as they get larger.
"I have tried planting clams in different places without protection and it's almost 100% mortality you lose them all to crabs and other predators so the big thing is you have to protect them from the predators," said Baldwin.
Bags or screens can offer protection, but Bob prefers screens even though they are more work since he feels it produces a better clam. Another extra step he takes is to lime his clam farm.
"It buffers the pH of the bottom, the same principle as a farmer liming his fields, he does it to buffer the pH," said Baldwin.
The entire process from seed to market product is 20 to 24 months.
"It keeps money in the state and it brings money into the state because some of them do get shipped out," Baldwin said.
So dig in Lowcountry, thanks to the hard work of some it's clam season year-round.
Permits to plant clams are only allowed where there aren't previously existing shellfish, so it allows unproductive areas to become productive shellfish farms.