A salute to Simmons CatfishBy JAMIE PATTERSON,
As National Catfish Month comes to a close, Simmons Farm Raised Catfish remains an operation that represents the heart of Yazoo County.
For the past three decades, Simmons Farm Raised Catfish has given the world a quality product. With a commitment to quality, the product speaks for itself.
But what is even more incredible is the dedication to Yazoo County found within its walls. Employing mostly hometown folks, Simmons Catfish is selling Yazoo pride in every box of its delicious catfish.
“Everyone here works toward having good quality,” said Harry Simmons, owner. “We want the best quality on the market.”
Walking through the assembly lines of Simmons Catfish, close attention to detail and dedication to each production line is what makes the product better than the rest. From the Delta ponds to the delivery trucks, care is given to every aspect of the process.
Simmons Catfish began in 1982 after Simmons believed he could produce the best quality of catfish. After selling his catfish to larger processing plants, he decided to try it himself. His plant would cover the farming, processing and distribution of the whole operation.
“We have went from zero then to about 20 million pounds of live catfish,” Simmons said.
It’s a complex system inside Simmons Catfish. There is so much more than just boxing up some tasty catfish. The business offers a variety of products that are handled right here in Yazoo County. Shank fillets, fillet strips, fillet nuggets, whole catfish, catfish steaks, breaded catfish, marinated fillets and even hushpuppies are shipped out. There are also fresh and frozen packaging options available for any request.
And that is just inside the plant. Ponds surrounding the facility are filled with every stage of catfish. There is also another hatchery offsite.
Before a catfish even hits the assembly line, it is tested for good, pure flavor.
It’s clear that Simmons cares about its product.
Employing about 250 employees, many are from the Yazoo County area. There are a few from Humphreys and Holmes counties who commute to work. But for the most part, Simmons is a hometown employer.
From the management office to the assembly line floor, everyone seems to care about the work they do at Simmons Catfish. Whether it’s handling financial reports to loading a shipment in the freezer, there is pride in every role.
“Quality is everybody’s business,” Simmons said. “Everybody should be concerned with it.”
Every employee at Simmons Catfish puts their name on the box as well when the final product is finished. The catfish doesn’t just represent Simmons. It represents everyone who works there.
“Will a person take their work paycheck they earn here and buy a box of Simmons Catfish,” Simmons asked. ‘That is what we work toward.”
Advanced machines do handle a portion of Simmons’ operation. But it is amazing to see the number of employees who do everything by hand. Instead of a fast-paced “get it out the door” attitude, employees take time with their job. That extra time is the secret behind the product’s quality.
And it shows well beyond Yazoo County.
Simmons said the future for his catfish plant is wide open. He is always looking to train others to continue the success for the next 30 years.
Judging by the positive feedback from customers and business partners, Simmons Catfish is the best of its kind.
And with every fillet or whole fish that hits a dinner plate, a piece of Yazoo is with it.
“We want everybody to buy into what we offer when they see our fish in the grocery store or at a restaurant,” Simmons said. “We want the reputation of being the best. After 30 years, I don’t think we are going to change.”