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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region. If you would like to contribute to SFA’s oral history collections, please send your ideas for oral history along with your CV or Resume and a portfolio of prior oral history work to

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John Harley

Serenoa Shellfish

John Harley was born in 1983 and raised in Tallahassee, Florida. He was first introduced to aquaculture as a teenager. A family friend, Van Lewis, grew clams in Alligator Harbor. Harley often worked with him, hoisting mucky bags of clams off of the bottom of the Harbor. After high school, Harley worked as a landscaper in Austin, Texas. He returned to Florida in the mid-200s and worked as a landscaper on St. George Island, Florida. He then worked at Crescent Moon Organic Farm in Sopchoppy, Florida. Eventually, Harley became a consultant for an environmental management organization.

When Van Lewis died in 2011, Harley seriously considered farming clams again. The timing was not right, however. When oyster aquaculture began in Florida in 2014, His friend and fellow oyster farmer, Ben Wiggins, encouraged Harley to join him. In 2019, he began farming oysters on a lease shared with Wiggins. Harley also continues to do environmental survey work alongside oyster aquaculture, and he also engages in oyster reef restoration. He markets and sells his oysters and clams under his label, Serenoa Shellfish.

Date of interview:

Annemarie Anderson

Annemarie Anderson

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The Southern Foodways Alliance drives a more progressive future by leading conversations that challenge existing constructs, shape perspectives, and foster meaningful discussions. We reconsider the past with research, scrutiny, and documentation.


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