Tell us about the producer’s background and what led Broken Bay Pearl Farm to becoming established on the Central Coast
James Brown is a third-generation pearl farmer and marine biologist. In 1946, his grandfather started Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm in Broome, WA, which was the first Australian-owned pearl farm.
Broken Bay Pearl Farm on the Central Coast is an epic Australian pioneering story. Rose and Ian Crisp started the pearl farm in 2003 after discovering the native Akoya pearl oyster growing amongst their farmed Sydney Rock Oysters. Their story alone is inspiring, but after a chance conversation between James and Rose, James became a partner in the business and ensured that the farm remained an Australian-owned business. This was great for the Central Coast region as existing staff kept their jobs, and we created more local jobs by opening our Shellar Door to visitors and tourists. We will expand again once we have our edible Akoya pearl oysters ready for market. Stay tuned!
James is now the Managing Director of Pearls of Australia, which is the retail company behind Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm and Broken Bay Pearl Farm. Pearls of Australia is the only company to grow two types of rare pearl species – the Akoya (NSW) and the South Sea Pearl (WA).
In 2021, James won Australian Farmer of the Year, due largely to his pioneering work in sustainability and innovation. This is the first time someone in the aquaculture industry has ever won this award. We are super proud of him and all the team that have helped make this happen.
What do you enjoy most about connecting with visitors to your business?
We exist to inspire a greater connection between people and planet. We love telling our story, and we believe that every oyster has a story. Sometimes, it ends with a pearl. That story can now be treasured for a lifetime.
Visitors are intrigued and fascinated when they join a tour experience at our Central Coast pearl farm. They are genuinely surprised to learn the fascinating details around how we grow, seed and farm our oysters, and how we grade and value our pearls. And it doesn’t matter who you are; male, female, young or elderly, it is so special to be able to share our story and help others appreciate the sustainability practices around pearl farming.
We are so privileged to be part of the Central Coast Makers Trail. We love seeing the amazed looks on visitors’ faces when they discover that rare pearls are grown so close to Sydney.
What makes your products unique?
We are the only pearl farm in NSW that grows the Akoya pearl oyster (Pinctada fucata). Our Australian and locally-grown pearls are farmed directly from the waterways that surround us. We do not chemically treat or enhance our pearls. They are exactly as nature intended, which means they will last a lifetime. While most pearl farms, and how they operate, remain secretive, we open our doors to allow visitors to the Central Coast to experience first-hand how a working pearl farm operates. Our visitors are inspired when they see how we care for and nurture our oysters, and they are educated on the delicate eco system in which the oysters grow, and why they produce beautiful lustrous pearls. We want our visitors to make an informed choice when and if they decide to purchase a pearl.
What do you think makes the Central Coast such a great place for people to establish artisan businesses?
The Central Coast is so close to Sydney. It’s the perfect getaway for the people of Sydney and visitors, and it is a beautiful area to explore. With so many unspoilt beaches and bushwalking tracks for surfers, families, hikers and explorers, there is already a huge drawcard for travellers. Who wouldn’t want to live and work with a backdrop that is as beautiful as the Central Coast?
Why do you think there’s so many amazing producers on the Central Coast?
It’s such an idyllic place to live and has so much potential but it is still accessible to Sydney. In the last few years, the offerings have boomed, and they just keep getting better. There is something for everyone, and it is a unique part of Australia.
What do you think is the best kept secret on the Central Coast?
Broken Bay Pearl Farm! Most people didn’t even know it existed (and still don’t) until we opened our Shellar Door in 2019. We are working hard to let the secret out, and this fabulous Makers Trail is just one part of that message.
What’s your favourite thing to do on the Coast when you get a day off?
Most of our staff are ‘water people’. Usually, we can be found fishing, surfing, snorkelling, diving or swimming. And after a great day of activity, we love to eat oysters!