Congratulations to the Winners of the TOGA 2019 Youth Writing Contest "Consider the Oyster", announced at the

Jan. 25, 2020 Annual Meeting

Thanks to Charlie Koenig of the Gloucester Mathews Gazette Journal for covering the event.

Local students win TOGA essay contest



















Winners of the Tidewater Oyster Gardeners Association Middle School Writing Contest got the chance to read their winning essays during the group’s annual meeting on Saturday at VIMS. TOGA president, Terry Lewis is shown here with students Hannah Davis, Lucie Cox, Finley Payne and Ben Goetz, from left. Photo by Charlie Koenig

Ben Goetz, an eighth grader at Page Middle School, was named the winner of the Tidewater Oyster Gardeners Association Middle School Writing Contest.

Goetz took home the top prize of $500, along with other gifts, during TOGA’s annual meeting, which was held on Saturday afternoon in Watermen’s Hall on the campus of the Virginia Marine Institute of Science, Gloucester Point.

Hannah Davis, a sixth grader at Thomas Hunter Middle School in Mathews, took second place in the essay contest, winning $250, while two Tabb Middle School students, eighth grader Finley Payne and seventh grader Lucie Cox, tied for third place, each receiving $100.

In addition to the cash prizes, each of the students received a TOGA T-shirt, a cap or visor, and an oyster tumbler floating cage so they can grow their own oysters. As the school of the winning essayist, Page will receive $200 to spend on educational aids.

The theme of this year’s essay contest was “Consider the Oyster” and was open to all Virginia students in grades six, seven and eight. The four winning students got the chance to read their winning essays at the start of the group’s annual meeting.

Prize money was doubled from the previous year. “This increase in prize money indicates the commitment TOGA members have shown to increase the emphasis on education for our organization,” said TOGA president Terry Lewis. “Reaching young people at an early age is very important to start a lifelong interest in ecology and the importance of the health of the Bay.”

The contest was judged by Lewis and his wife, Mary Ann, Sue and Bob Morgan, and Judy and Vic Spain. Peoples Community Bank sponsored the contest.

The winning essays will be posted on the TOGA website,

Dr. Stan Allen, professor and director of the Aquaculture Genetics and Breeding Technology Center at VIMS, was the program’s guest speaker. TOGA members also had the opportunity to meet with representatives of the Virginia Marine Resources Commission and the Virginia Department of Health’s Division of Shellfish Sanitation to discuss regulatory matters, and have an informal Q&A period with experienced Master Oyster Gardeners.

Also addressing the group were two doctoral candidates at VIMS, Joey Matt and Kristen Prossner, who were recipients of TOGA scholarships.

The meeting ended with TOGA members enjoying food and camaraderie with, of course, oysters on the menu.

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