How 2 cousins saved their family's oyster company with underwater farming.
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Gates Foundation: The Story of Food

When Ryan and Travis Croxton decided to bring back their grandfather's oyster company, it coincided with Chesapeake Bay’s lowest oyster harvest ever.

All images via Upworthy.

Their town's once-flourishing industry was collapsing. In fact, things got so bad, their native oyster was almost put on the endangered species list. It was a pretty big dilemma (and inconvenient timing), to say the least. But it only spurred the Croxton cousins' Rappahannock Oyster Company even more to find a solution.


They scoured the internet to see what other countries were doing, how they were producing their seafood. What they found was a more advanced, efficient technique that could help save not just their own business, but Chesapeake Bay's entire oyster industry.

Watch how this amazing journey unfolded right here:

This community of dedicated fishermen is making sure the Chesapeake Bay oyster doesn't end up on the endangered species list.

Posted by Upworthy Video on Friday, March 17, 2017

Rather than just gathering what oysters were left, the Croxtons turned to aquaculture, which is basically the farming and harvesting of anything that lives underwater.

Outside of aquaculture, gathering fish and oysters is just about that — gathering. Get, get, get. Fish, fish, fish. You collect as big a bounty as you can and you sell it for top dollar. The problem with that model is it becomes all about how much you can get, leaving little regard for resources.

In contrast, aquaculture is all about those resources. It focuses on creating a sustainable ecosystem where underwater plants and animals can thrive more naturally.

And when it comes down to it, oyster aquaculture can be a boon to both the environment and the economy.

For one thing, oysters are a natural cleaner and they act as an amazing filter for pollutants, such as nitrogen. "During its duration in the water, it's filtering 50 to 60 gallons of water a day," explained Ryan Croxton.

Promoting a habitat and life cycle that allows these oysters to blossom benefits Mother Nature (and our tummies) even more. "The oysters we grow actually increase the population of the wild oysters," added Travis Croxton. "You see underwater vegetation coming back, which provides sanctuary for marine animals."

When it comes to aquaculture and fish, however, the method does have potential downsides. Installing cages to farm the fish is necessary, and building them can damage a coast's natural ecosystem. On top of that, waste can accumulate in these structures and contaminate an area's water supply.

Aquaculture also has the potential to create countless new jobs. In the U.S. alone, aquaculture production hit just over a billion dollars back in 2012. But when you compare it to the $120 billion worldwide industry that it was valued at that same year, you can see there are still many opportunities for growth.

And it's already happening.

When the the Croxtons first started out, only a few businesses were doing aquaculture in their community. Now? Several hundred. "I've increased my workforce by about 30%," said Richard Harding, owner of Purcell’s Seafood Company. "We're a small business in a small community, so every job counts."

The best part? Aquaculture has the potential to improve food access for people all around the world.

A 2015 report by WorldFish shows how fish consumption is rising in developing nations — and future demand worldwide is only expected to increase in the coming decades. This means that aquaculture is going to play a pivotal role in making sure that everyone gets fed.

In fact, by 2030, it's already estimated that two-thirds of the global fish supply will be produced via aquaculture.

So yes, demand, populations, challenges — they're all rising. But, you know what? So is the know-how of the people addressing this issue. "Aquaculture is one of the rare things in this world that is a win-win for everything," added Travis Croxton.

The next time you grab an oyster platter, think about how that little gooey organism is helping change the world. Then, of course, think about how dang delicious it is.

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

The year 2018 was a pivotal one in the produce industry, the Red Delicious was supplanted as the most popular apple in America by the sweeter, crisper Gala.

It was only a matter of time. The Red Delicious looked the part of the king of the apples with its deep red, flawless skin. But its interior was soft, mealy, and pretty bland. The Red Delicious was popular for growers because its skin hid any bruises and it was desired by consumers because of its appearance.

But these days it's having a hard time competing with the delectable crunch provided by the Gala, honeycrisp, and Fuji.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."