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An Alabama Oyster Social, featuring Alabama-farmed oysters as the stars of the show, will take place Friday, Jan. 30, at Acre.

What exactly is an oyster social? Acre chef David Bancroft calls it a party for a purpose. He stresses that the whole idea is to highlight the quality of Alabama-farmed oysters and the value of related research Auburn fisheries is doing. He said the event is a collaborative effort to support those who make their living from the Gulf and the Auburn researchers who help them succeed.

Tickets to the Jan. 30 Alabama Oyster Social are $55 each and can be purchased online. The social will kick off at 6 p.m. at Acre, located at 210 E. Glenn Ave. in downtown Auburn.

Bancroft has recruited some of the South’s most acclaimed young chefs to develop a menu. Chef Adam Evans of Atlanta’s The Optimist, Chef Jason Stanhope of FIG in Charleston and fellow Alabama chefs Rob McDaniel and Wesley True will help Bancroft transform the farm-fresh delicacies into bite-sized dishes deserving of celebration.

In addition to oysters, the event will feature tastings from Southern beverage makers Cathead Vodka, Back Forty Beer, Sazerac and others. While enjoying food, drink and live country music from Mobile natives BB Palmer and Kudzu, guests may not realize exactly what the purpose of the party is.

Thanks to a long-time family connection, Acre chef David Bancroft knew just where to find the help he needed to get a ton of oysters from the coast to his kitchen for this year’s event: the Auburn University School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Science. Bancroft’s family and SFAAS Director John Jensen go back 35 years to the beginning of Jensen’s work with Paul Kennedy, Bancroft’s maternal grandfather and a catfish and tilapia farmer in Hartford, Alabama. Having witnessed SFAAS researchers’ work on his granddad’s farm, Bancroft knew the value of their efforts to establish new markets for sustainably grown products and to streamline processes for the Alabamians who produce them. He also knew about the researchers’ efforts to get oyster farming off the ground—literally and figuratively—in communities long dependent on the state’s wild fisheries.

One of the leaders in Auburn’s oyster farming efforts is Bill Walton, a fisheries and aquaculture expert and former part-time Cape Cod oyster farmer who relocated to the Gulf Coast five years ago. As leader of the Auburn University Shellfish Laboratory on Dauphin Island and a specialist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Walton hopes to one day see “branded” oysters coming from each of the farms he’s working with—each known for a unique taste, texture, appearance or some other characteristic, and each sought after by chefs like Bancroft and those who will join him in serving up the shellfish at the social. The social will feature a variety of Alabama premium oysters, including Isle Dauphines, Mon Louis’, Murder Points, Point aux Pins and Southern Pearls, and a number of the oyster farmers and their families will be a part of the festivities.

Read the whole story behind this year's Oyster Social on the College of Agriculture website.