2021 Ruth Fertel Keeper of the Flame: Earnest McIntosh, Sr.
Earnest McIntosh of Harris Neck, Georgia, wins the 2021 Ruth Fertel Keeper of the Flame Award from the Southern Foodways Alliance
Earnest McIntosh, Sr. has been a pioneer in modern oyster farming in his historic community of Harris Neck, Georgia.
With his son and business partner, Earnest McIntosh, Jr., he advocated for a provisional oyster farming permit from the state and partnered with University of Georgia scientists to evolve his business, E.L. McIntosh & Son Seafood. McIntosh has steered away from the wild harvesting techniques that have decimated oyster populations in the United States. Instead, he pursues more sustainable aquaculture farming, using contemporary practices to preserve the legacies of the Black oystermen who have traditionally made up the industry workforce along the Atlantic coast.
McIntosh supplies oysters to restaurants including The Grey, in Savannah, and Kimball House, in Atlanta. His innovations, which seek to both increase production and lengthen the harvest season, have brought attention to the Harris Neck appellation and helped revive a struggling industry in the South.