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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 annemarie@southernfoodways.org.

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Jules Melancon

Caminada Bay Oysters

Jules Melancon, born in 1958, has spent his whole life oystering the waters that surround Grand Isle. His maternal grandfather, Louis Eymard, started farming oysters around nearby Independence Island. Back then, they harvested a thousand sacks a week at 120-pounds a piece, delivered, twice weekly, by steamboat to New Orleans. Jules’s father oystered and, after working for awhile in the oil business, he, too, joined the family oystering enterprise in 1982.

Jules suffered mightily from Hurricane Katrina, in 2005, and the BP Oil Spill, in 2010. The oyster industry was decimated by both events. In 2011, Jules applied for Louisiana’s very first cage-grown oyster license, a common practice most everywhere oysters are grown, except the Gulf Coast. He harvests and sells far fewer oysters today than in the past, but these bivalves come at a boutique price, sold per oyster, named from the waters from which they’re fished: Caminada Bay, Champagne Bay, Queen Bess, Independence. With a lifetime of knowledge about coastal Gulf waters, Jules speaks candidly about the past, present, and future of the state’s oyster industry.

Date of interview:

Rien Fertel


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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.


Alex Raij Txikito

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