Catfish is one of the most versatile foods. It can be fried, broiled, baked, or grilled. However, there is so much more to the catfish industry, unbeknownst to the consumer, than the versatility in its preparation for consumption.
The McGlawn family lives in Swiftown, a community of the Mississippi Delta located right outside of Belzoni. The McGlawns have two children, ages 9 and 10, who are also involved in the operations of the family farm. The McGlawn family farm currently consists of 160 water acres with plans to acquire another 160 more acres bordering their farm. In addition to the 160 water acres that make up the family’s catfish ponds, the McGlawns also have 1,800 acres of row crops. Catfish farming is an everyday job. The season is year- round and requires a great deal of time and effort. Missy feeds catfish every day while the bulk of other operations fall to Chris. Both Missy and Chris are first generation catfish farmers.
Recently, Catfish Farmers of America named Chris and Missy McGlawn Mississippi’s 2017 Catfish Farmers of the Year. The couple was chosen by The Catfish Institute’s Board of Directors from a wide array of catfish producers in the U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish Industry. This award is special for many reasons. The farmers are nominated and chosen based on their participation within the industry and farming communities. The active promotion of catfish farming plays a huge role in the award.
The McGlawns represented and promoted the catfish industry in Boston at the annual Seafood Expo of North America, the largest seafood trade show. “I feel like I contributed more to the industry in the two-day trip than I ever have before,” Chris stated. “This was the best trip I have ever been on.” The couple met people from all parts of the world and discussed exactly what the catfish farming industry is all about.
Seining is the mere act of harvesting the catfish so it can be sent to processing plants for distribution. Chris first got into catfish farming because he had been doing custom seine work for 17 years. Chris has been working in and around the catfish industry for almost 20 years now. He and Missy grew up together and neither had any idea the path of life would lead them to be full time catfish farmers. Chris said, “We are both passionate about catfish farming and strive to be successful at it.”
The McGlawns are not only active in the day-to-day operating and management of the farm, but also spend time and effort trying to streamline the process and make their operation run as efficiently as possible. Efficiency is important to the future of the industry.
The catfish farming business is challenging to say the least. Issues often arise with oxygen supply, regulations, and meeting supply and demand without causing an oversupply. “You don’t know what you can sell it [catfish] for until it is time to sell,” said Chris. “The industry is based on current market value at the time of sale.” This makes it difficult for farmers to estimate their earnings so they have to be extra cautious financially during the process.
Despite the year-round season of catfish farming, the McGlawn family does get a little down time during the winter months. Like any other family, the McGlawns enjoy traveling, hunting, snow skiing, and water sports. The McGlawn children are also active in a wide array of sporting activities, including football, basketball, soccer, softball, and gymnastics.