Apalachicola, Florida, is a community in peril.
The tiny fishing village once supplied 10 percent of all oysters consumed in the United States. However, in the last decade, oil spills, water wars and drought have all but destroyed the industry. With the oysters have gone livelihoods and a way of life.
It's a complicated story - so complicated, in fact, that it was hard to get average folks outside of Apalachicola invested. We wanted to change that.
People's eyes glaze over at talk of "water rights," but they listen when you tell someone's story.
We chose to focus on the story of Rodney Richards, a second-generation marine blacksmith and one of the last working oyster-tong makers in Florida.
We partnered with celebrity jewelry designer Ashley Porter, of New Orleans, to create high-end jewelry from Rodney's stock in trade: oyster tong teeth.
We called the collection "Torchbearers," a nod both to Rodney's craft and to the idea of "carrying the torch" for his community and way of life.
Once the pieces were designed, we launched a Kickstarter campaign and media blitz to publicize the story.
The campaign produced bylined stories in publications across the United States, including USA Today, New Orleans Business Journal and the Tampa Bay Times. The coverage reached a combined audience of more than 150,000 readers.
Though the Kickstarter campaign did not reach its goal, it did result in a partnership with two other Gulf Coast jewelry designers, who plan to launch a collection of high-end jewelry focused on Rodney's work in 2018.