Don's grandfather, Berlie Bell, was born and raised on Hog Island, Virginia in the days when the Island was a community called Broadwater with close to 200 residents. In 1936 he moved his family and house off of the island to the Village of Oyster on the mainland and the street was named Broadwater Circle in keeping with the community. By the late 1930's, tide and time had forced all of the island residents to move off of Hog Island and from most of the Virginia barrier islands.
Berlie continued to harvest oysters, crabs and clams - the gifts of nature - and he learned to plant oysters in the creeks and flats of the eastern shore. He could harvest up to 750 bushels of oysters per day with one crew and in 1950, he was harvesting enough oysters to build a shucking house where he employed as many as 35 shuckers. Berlie sold oysters to all on the eastern shore, the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay and to the Campbell Soup Company in Norfolk, Virginia.
My father, Don Miles, started working for Berlie in 1960, and then went on his own to grow oysters, pot crabs and catch fish. As the oyster business and habitat declined and crabs were plentiful, he moved on to crabbing and fishing. I learned everything I know about shell fishing from my father and grandfather, and that to be a waterman you need to have patience, a sense of humor and a stubborn streak. You have to love bad weather and hard work along with the joys of nature and a good catch. I am a waterman. I crab, fish, conch and now I grow oysters.
I ate my first raw oyster when I was 3 years old and I fell in love them! I work in the daily operations of processing orders, marketing and sales. I love being a part of growing and distributing our oysters, both because I love the way they make people feel, and because I know we are doing our part for the Chesapeake. There is nothing that makes me happier than being at an oyster event, shucking a Broadwater for a newbie, and seeing their face light up. It takes me back to that first oyster I ate so many years ago!