Max Burtis (left), apprentice Kelly Morgan and apprentice Matt Czuchra check on an oyster cage on the New Meadows River on April 15. Kristian Moravec / The Times Record

As a light fog settled over the boundary between Harpswell and Brunswick, 24-year-old oyster farmer Max Burtis drove his motorboat out to a small floating rig in the middle of the New Meadows River on April 12.

The longtime Brunswick resident pointed north to a patch of floating black buoys on the Brunswick side of the water where his business, Ferda Farms, grows some of its oysters.

Max Burtis, a co-owner of Ferda Farms, a Brunswick-based oyster farming operation, sits on a boat driven by apprentice Matt Czuchra on April 12. Kristian Moravec / The Times Record

“This is my only business that I have. Still, most of my income comes from clam digging,” Max said later.

Max and his father, co-owner Chris Burtis, now hope to make a bigger splash in the aquaculture market. The duo applied for a standard aquaculture lease through the Department of Marine Resources in 2021. After a lengthy, three-year process, the department held its first public hearing at Brunswick Town Hall for the application. The DMR said it will make a decision within a few months.

The slow timeline of the application has not prevented the farm, which was founded in 2018, from working to grow on a social scale.

“Community outreach — you can’t really do enough of it, really,” Chris Burtis said.


In the summers, the farm participates in Midcoast festivals and events, such as the Maine Oyster Festival in Freeport and Open Farm Day on the New Meadows River, which entails gathering with locals and enjoying fresh oysters from the farm.

Ferda Farms co-owner Max Burtis helps dock a boat on New Meadows River on April 15. Kristian Moravec / The Times Record

The business also aims to grow sustainably and installed a solar panel system. The farm is testing electric motors for its boats as well. The Burtises hope that soon the entire operation will run on renewable energy.

In the meantime, Max hopes the new lease will help the farm grow its operations. He said it will allow them to increase their yearly oyster yield and consolidate their farms into one location.

“What we have — it’s not enough to sustain me and my father,” Max said. “The lease we’ll have will be more efficient.”

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