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Greenport teen bound for Yale plays pivotal role in family business, Widow’s Hole Oyster Farm

Mercator Osinski holds tiny oysters at his family’s business, Widow’s Hole Oyster Farm, where he introduced a system that grows smaller, plumper oysters.

Three years ago, Mercator Osinski’s dad, Michael, presented him with a task: What can the family do differently to improve the quality of the oysters their Greenport business, Widow’s Hole Oyster Farm, produces?

Then just 15, Mercator got to work researching different options, ultimately implementing kusshi, a Japanese technique that uses the tides to grow smaller, plumper oysters.

Kusshi involves pilings that support the lines where oysters grow suspended in purses that move with the high and low tides. The pilings, large wooden poles sticking out of the water, are expensive, so Mercator designed a system of pilings and cables that resembles a suspension bridge.

“We go to the city every week to sell the oysters in our harvest season,” he said. “The bridges we go over are suspension bridges … It’s a lot cheaper and a lot easier to install.”

Not only is Mercator’s design more cost effective, it optimizes the quality of the oysters, leading to greater demand from customers. It also is more beneficial for the environment, making the system a win-win for the Osinski family.

“I like building things,” said Mercator, who recently graduated fourth in his class from Bishop McGann-Mercy. “I find it fun and fascinating.”

This passion for building has been a constant in his life and has guided Mercator to a future that includes attending Yale University, where he will major in mechanical engineering.

The oyster system he implemented has been one of his favorite projects. Another sits in his driveway under a tarp: a red Jeep that he purchased in August 2015 and has been working to restore.

Mercator said he chose Yale over his other options — which included Brown University, Northeastern University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute — because it most closely mirrored his experience at Mercy.

“I like that it’s not huge, it’s more of a community,” he said. “I was looking for that in a college. My sister goes to Cornell, and that’s too large for me. I like being in a small community; I know everyone at Mercy.”

Although he maintained a 100 GPA while working at the family oyster farm, that’s only the tip of the iceberg for Mercator. He also works at Costello Marine in Greenport.

During high school, he played soccer each fall and ran track, and in his senior year, he tried lacrosse for the first time. He also played alto saxophone in Mercy’s jazz band and hopes to continue playing at Yale.

Mercator said the key to being involved in so much is to find the right balance.

“Sometimes I have to sacrifice not going somewhere to do work or vice versa,” he said. “Plan your time. It’s important to be involved but not to burn yourself out. Make time to sleep and hang out with friends, but then find the balance with academics and challenge yourself from there.”

Mercator crossed the stage at Mercy June 6 as a member of its final graduating class, and received the school’s Medal for Mathematics. He said he’s excited for the future, but will miss his time at Mercy.

“It hasn’t hit me yet,” he said. “The school is still there so I still drive by and see it when I’m in Riverhead. But it’s endearing to be the last class graduating at Mercy Monarchs.”

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Photo caption: Mercator Osinski holds tiny oysters at his family’s business, Widow’s Hole Oyster Farm, where he introduced a system that grows smaller, plumper oysters. (Nicole Smith photo)