Drakes Bay Oysters Stewardship

The Lunnys are one of the ranching families of West Marin keeping this beautiful land connected to its agrarian past and creating a sustainable future. The Lunny family began dairy ranching in Point Reyes in 1946 and is known for its agricultural innovation.

The Lunny ranch created the first certified organic and certified grass-fed beef herd in Marin County, and was the first beef ranch in California to be certified Salmon Safe for the management of its riparian areas, pastures, and manure. The Lunnys received an Excellence in Rangeland Management award from the Society of Rangeland Management in 2009, and were the first beef ranch in California to receive the Animal Welfare Approved seal for humane treatment of animals.

In late 2004, the Lunnys purchased the historic oyster farm in Drakes Estero from the Johnson family, its previous owners since 1957. The farm dates to the 1930s. The Lunnys named it Drakes Bay Oyster Company, its original name.

Drakes Bay oysters are famous for being clean and safe. They have won Most Beautiful Pacific Oyster Award from the National Shellfisheries Association and are in great demand by chefs and retailers.

The Lunnys are known as careful stewards of the land and water, not only through their own sound farming practices but also with their philanthropic contributions to conservation; donated Lunny oyster shells supported both the Snowy Plover habitat restoration efforts of the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory and the NOAA Fisheries San Francisco Bay Native Oyster Habitat Restoration project.

The Lunny family also provided educational tours of the oyster farm for school groups and for the public, increasing awareness of sustainable farming and educating the public about the importance of a healthy ecosystem.

In 2007, the Lunnys were recognized by the Park Service for environmental stewardship and innovation in its publication Stewardship Begins with People. (See page 45)

The oyster farm provided beneficial ecological services to Drakes Estero. As filter feeders, oysters clarify the water by consuming excess nutrients—an important role a healthy ecosystem. (See the oyster section for more information about the benefits of farmed oysters.)

Update:  We lost our battle to save the oyster farm. The Park Service shut down the oyster operations and razed the historic buildings. This page will remain on the website as a tribute to the stewardship of Team Lunny.

Update February 2017:  The oyster racks in Drakes Estero are being removed using barge-mounted excavators. The entire estero is closed to paddlers as the Seashore races to finish the project before seal pupping season in March. The $4 million construction project aims to restore almost three acres of eelgrass habitat while promising to destroy only about a half an acre of it, for a net gain of roughly two and half acres of oyster-rack-free water bottom said to be suitable for eelgrass. Yet Seashore officials acknowledge there is already roughly 700 acres of thriving eelgrass in Drakes Estero. Phyllis Faber and Sarah Rolph published this commentary on the so-called restoration effort.