Inspired by the idea of the the reef club frag swap, the New England Frag Farmer's represents a regional event with "farmers" from all over New England gathered to sell their home grown "crop." The E.O. Smith Coral Project opens the doors to the school for any local hobbyist, retail or online store to come in and set-up a tank to sell coral frags. Admission is only $5, and anyone can come in and chat with the farmers, share information and get a few nice homegrown frags to stock their tanks. The Frag Farmer's Market has grown into the largest frag swap in the Northeast, with 60+ sellers and over 1000 people coming to shop for the 2016 FFM.
The coral reefs of the world are in peril as a result of numerous human activities that are negatively affecting the ecosystem, both directly and indirectly. Unfortunately, included in that list is the marine aquarium trade. As a hobbyist and an avid scuba diver, I find it upsetting that I am taking part in destroying the reefs that I love so much. The hobby that we all take part in pulls ten of thousands of corals out of the oceans each year, with a focus on finding the rare and hard to find specimens. Many of these corals end up dying in collection, shipping, and acclimation. From there many end up dead by being put into insufficient home reef environments. The irony is that most hobbyists have the ability to successfully grow coral colonies from tiny pieces of the original coral and can, in time, create full sized colonies in captivity, with minimal effect on the ocean populations. By providing a venue for local hobbyists to sell homegrown coral frags from their tanks, my hope is that more people will stock their tanks with homegrown coral frags. In time, I hope that they will see the benefit and take the time to frag the corals that they have. If we can take one coral colony from the wild, cut it into 25 pieces, put it into 25 people's tanks who grow it out and frag it, we will not have to take another colony of that coral from the wild in the future. By hosting the event, I also give the hobbyist a chance to see some of the incredible diversity of homegrown coral that is available in the New England area and, at this point, well beyond. By giving hobbyists the opportunity to stock their tanks, learn a few things from people who are successfully growing corals in their aquariums, and leave ready to start growing and fragging themselves, I am hoping to have a positive effect on the environmental impact of our hobby.
As a side note to all of this, many "Farmer's Market" style events have popped up in other areas, which is great to see. I am looking forward to the day when we can import minimal numbers of corals and use almost exclusively aquacultured specimens.
I have been approached by a number of people who ask me, "Why let shops set-up at the Frag Farmer's Market? Isn't it supposed to be for the hobbyist?" The original intention was to create a venue for hobbyists to sell their homegrown corals and having shops there selling full colonies seems to be counter to the theme of the Frag Farmer's. I think that including shops has three huge benefits for the hobby.
For one, I think that the local fish store is an entity that struggles to stay afloat in these tougher economic times. With more and more internet based businesses popping up, many of which are run from people's homes with low/no overhead,,it is tough for the brick and mortar store to compete with them for business. I feel that the Frag Farmer's gives the local shops a chance to show off their stuff, but more importantly, to meet people who are in the hobby and develop relationships with them. The key to making this hobby continue is education and the local fish store can be one of the best places to learn, especially for the new hobbyist.
Secondly, I want to encourage the shop that does frag and grow corals. Although I would like to see the hobby go completely aquacultured, we are just not there yet. I would love to see shops work more on getting in corals, fragging them in the shop, growing them out and selling frags rather than the whole colony. By including shops, I offer them a chance to
-more people come in
The following companies have generously supported the Frag Farmer's Market this year either by donations to the market, or by participating by coming to sell their frags. These businesses have shown commitment to the environment by providing frags, supplies to frag, or "greener" options to reefkeeping in general. The E.O. Smith Coral Project encourages you to take a minute to support these businesses when purchasing equipment, fragging supplies, or frags for your systems. Take a minute to look over their websites using the attached links. Check back often, this list is ALWAYS growing!
Director E.O. Smith Coral Project
A special thanks to CaribSea for offering to not only donate to the raffle but also supplying the water for the 2017 FFM! They have been a HUGE supporter of the school project from the very start and continue to offer their products to the project to ensure its success.. Thanks!