Over the next couple of posts I'm going to write about some extraordinary people in my life. They are intentionally following their dreams and in Chuck Westfall's case, making New York a better place. Chuck's tag line is "Saving the bay, one oyster at a time" and he works hard every day to save the Great South Bay. Chuck calls what he does aqua farming and for oyster lovers, you know his crop. He raises Blue Point Oysters; the real thing, not some knock off or want to be. I am not an oyster person but the desire to be specific about what is a Blue Point Oyster is akin to the French insisting that true champagne comes only from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France. This is Chuck's fourth year as an oyster farmer and he's starting to get the kind of attention that a man who has weathered hurricanes, bitter winters and the deadly starfish deserves. Edible Long Island featured Chuck on the cover smiling as he works. It's good to see him getting the recognition he has earned.
I have watched over the last 4 years as Chuck moved from running an audio company while sitting behind an audio board in ballrooms all over the country to boating out daily to tend an oyster farm in the Great South Bay. He spent his time educating himself on raising oysters, learning about the eco-system of the bay and becoming proficient on government regulations and laws concerning aqua farming. Chuck talked passionately at parties and get togethers about aqua farming and how to solve the technical problems of oyster farming. But I have also listened as he shared his frustration when times were difficult. I love the photo on my blog for just that reason. As you gaze upon it, you think "oh, how lucky he is to be under a double rainbow in the Great South Bay on a beautiful summer day". Chuck tells a slightly different story. He was fuming when that photo was snapped because a piece of the farm equipment had just floated away and disappeared. Even when you are doing something you are passionate about, there a bumps along the way but Chuck kept moving forward and now his efforts are bearing fruit.
Chuck is a cross between Hemingway's Santiago from The Old Man and the Sea and Ayn Rand's Howard Roark from The Fountainhead. Just the right mix of determination and experience has resulted in a successful 4 years as an oyster farmer. Chuck has worked hard but he also had another important asset...His wife, Ruth. Yes, the quote behind every successful man stands a good woman is true in this case. From the beginning Ruth said, "I am with him in whatever he wants to do but he can't stay home all day in his pajamas". Okay, I am embellishing the last part a bit but she did say something amusing. Ruth is funny in an understated way but she is clear on the need to stay engaged in life to be happy. It's motivating to watch them work together as a couple. To see them in action check out the highlights video Chuck put together about their first year aqua farming; you'll love it.
I, like a lot of my friends, wonder what I will do in the next phase of my life. Do I continue to work at my current profession? Do I start something new? Do I chuck the whole thing, retire and sit on the beach? Watching Chuck embrace and follow through on saving the bay, one oyster at a time is energizing and encouraging. So I ask you, what is your passion? And will you go for it?