Catherine Owen ’17 Makes a Difference One Oyster at a Time

Hutchison Now highlights recent graduates early in their careers who embody how a Hutchison education can lead anywhere you can imagine. We spoke with Catherine Owen ’17, who works at a sustainable oyster farm owned by Aubrey Sanders ’04 on Edisto Island, South Carolina.

When did you first become interested in environmental issues? 

The environmental courses I took at the University of the South (Sewanee) consisted of Agroecology, Ecosystems of the Oceans, and Sustainable Land Development, and with each course, I enjoyed learning about the various aspects of sustainability. My focus on food and agriculture within my major stemmed from my passion for nutrition as an athlete as well as educating others about the importance of having access to healthy foods.

One day, I hope to combine the lessons I learned from my Hutchison service project, which focused on areas in need such as food deserts, with my knowledge from Sewanee. I want to create a community-based outlet for those who don’t have access to healthy, affordable food, which, I believe, everyone should have. 

What is a sustainable oyster farm? 

Our oyster farm is considered sustainable because we grow them in an environment where each individual oyster can thrive and obtain the necessary nutrients it needs to grow to its full potential. Oysters in general are incredibly beneficial to the environment because they naturally filter our waters. In fact, one adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons a day! It is rewarding to come across other marine species around our farm as well because that means we are creating a healthy environment for other wildlife to thrive in. One big happy symbiotic relationship! :)

Hutchison alumna Aubrey Sanders '04 owns the Steamboat Creek Oyster Farm where you work. How important are the connections that the Hutchison community provides? 

I will always value the relationships and connections that the Hutchison community provided me. Working alongside Aubrey has been so inspiring, and it makes the working environment so much more meaningful and makes me proud to be a Hutchison alumna! The connections Hutchison has provided me have led me down multiple paths in life that I otherwise would not have found, and I will be forever grateful for that. 

How did your experiences at Hutchison help you get where you are today? 

The biggest lesson Hutchison taught me was not to be afraid to try new things. As I reflect on my time at Hutchison, I remember all the different outlets to explore new passions. The service project I led to help fight food insecurity was a valuable and life-changing experience for me. During four years of tennis, I gained leadership experience as president of the Athletic Council and captain of the team. I also enjoyed the arts and even the Zumba club. 

I always felt encouraged to put myself out there when that can actually be a scary thing to do in the real world. I will always be thankful for the confidence and courage Hutchison instilled in me to take the first step toward discovering a new passion.  

Catherine Owen ’17 graduated from the University of the South in 2021 with a degree in Environment and Sustainability. She is an assistant at Steamboat Creek Oyster Farm, owned by Aubrey Sanders ’04. In 2017, she won the state doubles championship with Grace Anne Dunavant '19 and was awarded an athletic scholarship to Sewanee.

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