Bradshaw named Catfish Farmer of the Year

By JAMIE PATTERSON,

Yazoo City’s very own Dan Bradshaw was selected as the 2018 Mississippi Catfish Farmer of the Year.

Roger Barlow, executive director of Catfish Farmers of America, said Brashaw was one of three farmers from three different states selected for this honor.

“Each year, farmers from the three main producing states are asked to select from their membership a deserving producer to be named as their state’s Catfish Farmer of the Year,” said Barlow. “This honor is a great opportunity to give leading producers national recognition for their contributions to our industry, and we are proud to feature these outstanding American farmers in our annual lineup of industry promotions.”

The farmers are chosen from a large field of catfish growers in the industry. Barlow said the selected finalists are those who embody the spirit of the American Farmer.

The lure for catfish farming was always in front of Bradshaw.

He was raised around it, lived it, breathed it.

And with a family whose name symbolizes the catfish industry in Yazoo County and beyond, it was easy for Bradshaw to take the bait.

Bradshaw is the farm manager for Simmons Catfish. His uncle Harry Simmons opened the Simmons Farmed Raised Catfish Processing Plant in 1982 in the Delta flatlands of Yazoo County.

But for Bradshaw, it was what his family did. They were farmers.

“This is what I have always known,” Bradshaw said. “And it’s true...once farming gets in your blood, it’s always there.”

Harry Simmons is a pioneer in the catfish industry. Not only has he made a name for himself within the business in general, but his family business gives so much back to the community through employment and a quality product.

His nephew Bradshaw was happy to join the family team at the local plant because he knew what stood behind that name.

“I am proud to be a part of this,” Bradshaw said. “My uncle Harry has done this for so long that he is a pioneer in this business as a whole, not just for Yazoo County. I can say I learned from the best.”

Although the company continues to make headlines across the country for its top service and quality catfish, Bradshaw remembers growing up around the operation.

Bradshaw began working for the family business when he was in middle school.

But it didn’t begin in a pond but rather a field.

“I started helping out in the seventh grade in the cotton fields,” Bradshaw said.

 In 1974, the Simmons operation was in cotton and soybean farming. But it wasn’t long before the idea of a new crop began to look attractive. 

It wasn’t long before catfish was the craze for the Simmons family.

The ponds were stocked and acreage grew steadily. In 1982, Simmons Farmed Raised Catfish Processing Plant opened giving Harry Simmons the ability to market his catfish and develop a brand that would come to be known for its quality.

Business was beginning to take off. But Bradshaw had other ideas in mind.

“After graduating from Manchester Academy, I went to Mississippi State University,” Bradshaw said.

Bradshaw was considering wearing a suit every day, working in an office...as a lawyer.

“I worked for a couple of law firms,” Bradshaw said, with a smile. “But something kept pulling me back to this.”

The idea of catfish farming was always there in the back of Bradshaw’s head. But like most young college students, he ignored those notions to come back home.

“I really thought law was going to be it,” he said. “I had worked on the farm when I was younger, and I thought I wanted to get away from it.”

Bradshaw quickly learned that behind a desk was not where he was supposed to be.

“I got older and became wiser,” he said, with a laugh.

Bradshaw returned home and began working at the family business. He started doing anything he was put on at the facility.

From packing and shoveling ice to distribution to the ponds, Bradshaw was put anywhere that worked needed to be done.

Through the years and hard work, Bradshaw was appointed farm manager.

“I love doing this kind of work because I am outside all the time,” he said. “I love to be out in the environment, and I get to come to work every day and do just that.”

And what could beat fishing?

“I have always loved to fish and finding different ways to fish,” he said. “And this all comes back to that...the fish.”

Every day poses a challenge for Bradshaw. Maintaining the health of the fish, monitoring water quality...anything can happen in a day.

But Bradshaw doesn’t let those challenges overshadow the rewards that come with his job.

“This is family here,” he said.

Bradshaw does what his grandfather, uncle and others have always done.

He puts his work and name into a product that can make Yazoo County proud.