Consider the oysterman: Ryan Croxton, who co-owns Rappahannock Oyster Co. with his cousin Travis, is a man quick to smile, with tousled hair, and a squint that recalls generations of Croxtons looking out over sun-dappled water. His ancestors left England to settle the shores of the Rappahannock River in the 1670s. “I still find it peculiar that they were adventurous enough to set sail for an uncharted continent—and then not move an inch for 300 years,” Ryan says. “Or maybe that just speaks to where they landed.” 

In Topping, where the oysters are farmed and brought right up to the tables at Merrior, their cornerstone restaurant, it is hard to imagine wanting to leave.

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