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Ollie and the Oyster

Ashley Gateless on

The story of a mini-van, a dog named Ollie, and hogwash. Oh, you thought this was going to be a story about oysters? 

Our silver caravan settled into the steady stream of traffic winding up, over and around San Francisco like a wave swelling up just before it breaks. Confidently chasing the morning light, over the Golden Gate Bridge into Marin, we could see a glimpse of the day to come burning its way through the morning fog that had settled in overnight.

We were already imagining the catch of our day, the “sweetwater” oyster born in the mud flats of Tomales bay, protected from the pacific crush by Point Reyes National Seashore, yet flourishing in the cast of its tidal current.
Hog Island Map

Just as our tires rotated off the bridge and into Marin, the slightest psssst, a rumble, a shimmy, a shake, and one final gasp.  

mmm Oysters, ...That sounds like a tire… We should get into Marshall right around 9:30...ssssst ...nah tires usually make a whomping noise... We’ll have plenty of time to get sorted and capture this light, it’s gonna be… Bad, real bad, that is definitely the tire... WHOMP ...yep, that’s definitely a tire. Can I make it to the next exit?   WHOMP... KERTHUD, PSSSST.

We limped to a stop, feet away from an auto shop. On the bright side, without this delay we wouldn't have met Ollie and his owner Rosie. Rosie warmed up to us once Ollie determined that our stranded mini-van meant people to play kick the tennis ball. Three mechanics to locate and swap a spare tire, a rental car swap, and 6 mega bags of gear, we were back on the oyster hunt. Will we and the gear fit in our newly acquired economy compact rental?


Ollie and Rental Car

With my puzzle packing mastery, Mere’s mommy-to-be snack attack, and Andy’s long flexible biking legs we were refueled and pedaled to the medal, maxing out the Mirage at top speeds of 45.  

Destination: Hog Island Oyster Company, Marshall

ETA: adjusted plan 11am...ish.

As any mishap, things can only go one of two directions. Like our search for Hog Island, Hog Island found itself.  

Hog Island Oyster

John Finger and his partner started their oyster company with $500 and a borrowed boat. As the story goes, “they had just set up their first oyster racks, filled with seed. When touring the bay to show John’s wife, Debra, they pulled up to Hog Island and climbed the rock to look back at their lease and their boat drifted away. They were stranded on Hog Island for a few hours, until dark, when a local fisherman was returning home and boating past the island. Legend has it that after returning home that evening and a few beers, the name Hog Island Oyster Co. seemed to stick.”

Although its name may have been mishappened, this farm’s location was no accident. Matt MacKinnon described the region as a "foodlandia." Hog Island is surrounded by organic dairies and rolling ranchland largely preserved by the Marin Agricultural Land Trust, a local land trust dedicated to preserving farmland from commercial development. Over 70 farms ranging from oysters, cattle, vineyards and veggies thrive in the area. “All of our cafe offerings to compliment our oysters come from local farms or sources.”

Hog Island Oyster Company B Coporation

This “Bay to Bar” approach is just one of the ways Hog Island earns its B-Corporation status. “The how matters -- the way in which we achieve results is just as important as the results themselves. Our success is measured by how we treat each other, our communities and our planet.”

Assistant Retail Manager Matt McKinnon(left, Matt McKinnon, Assistant Retail Manager)




The booming bay town of Marshall is about an hour and a half north of San Francisco on Hwy 1, the bustling population of 50 are all part of your experience when you drive through the one main bayside street. Hog Island repurposed Marshall’s former train station as a shop, cafe picnic area and sustainable farming facility, supplemented with solar power. This team is committed to finding new ways of doing business, better.

Every crop is sorted, shaped, graded, and served up with care. Even if an oyster doesn’t make the cut, Hog Island will find a home for it. Small oysters return to the bay for continued growth. Oddly shaped or oversized oysters make their way to local breweries for batches like 21st Amendment Marooned on Hog Island Oyster Stout. Shells are composted or dried and used as roadside coverings for the main drag of Marshall.

 Hog Island Oyster

Hog Island Oyster FarmAfter our tour, it was time to dig in ... literally. If you don’t know how the folks at Hog Island aren’t “shellfish,” they will teach you. Best to get there before 3, as other visitors might polish off the daily catch without you. 

Hog Island Oyster "Shuck"

Prepared Hog Island Picnic

Hog Island Oyster Company Picnic

Sometimes you worry about flat tires, sometimes you play tennis with Ollie, and sometimes you give a “shuck,” just don’t forget the Hog Wash!

Visit Hog Island

-Ashley Gateless-
Community Marketing Manager