The wild card of the Damariscotta River growers, Dave Cheney does things his own way, and he'll let you know it, too. Dave comes from a Maine fishing family. His uncle owns the old lobster pound that he launches out of, and much of his family still fish and live on the peninsula. He's been digging clams since he was 12 years old, and lobstered for 16 years after he graduated college, always clamming and oystering in the background. He started John's River Oyster in 2007, but switched over to working the business full-time in 2012.
Dave starts his seed in the Great Salt Bay at the headwaters of the Damariscotta River, and he finishes them 10 miles downriver in the John's River, an extension of John's Bay, where the water is colder and closer to the ocean, geographically distanced from the rest of the Damariscotta growers. He says that "out here", waving a hand across his lines of cages surrounded by a small cove, he doesn't have the visual influences of other farms.
Dave grows a mix of both bottom and surface cultured oysters, dragging and diving depending on the season. He can't see what other people are doing, and he's never worked for another aquaculture operation, so he comes up with his own solutions that are tailored specifically to his farm.
He believes in no shortcuts. He believes in doing something to the best of his ability or not doing it at all. It's never been about the money he says, it's about the legacy you create. He's proud of the business he's created, and he should be. It's these practices that produce the premium oysters, and the following that John's Rivers are known for.