Travis Wilson of Dallas County was honored as Alabama’s Catfish Farmer of the Year during the Catfish Farmers of America annual convention in Mobile.
The winner is selected for environmental stewardship, production, innovations and leadership.
The Alabama Catfish Producers, a division of the Alabama Farmers Federation, selected Travis earlier this year as its nominee, which was confirmed by the Catfish Farmers of America.
“We are blessed to have clean, fresh water and a good clay-based soil on our farm,” said Wilson, who grows catfish with his father, Butch Wilson, and his brother-in-law, Willard Powe, in ponds that cover 450 acres in Browns, just west of Selma.
“Without good water quality, you won’t be successful in the catfish industry. I think I owe whatever success I have to my father who has always been willing to try new things. Some of them have worked, and others, well, we know now that they won’t work.”
As Alabama’s Catfish Farmer of the Year, Travis will represent the state this March at the Boston Seafood Show, the nation’s largest seafood show. He also will appear in promotional advertising for the Catfish Farmers of America.
Travis, 37, grew up farming with his dad on their 1,750-acre farm where they also raise beef cattle. His dad began raising catfish in 1990, and when Travis finished college, he returned home to the family’s business, as did his brother-in-law. Married for 10 years, Travis and his wife, Keisha, have two sons, Trevor, 8, and Cole, 6. The farm typically produces about 3 million pounds of catfish a year.
“One of the best attributes of being a farmer is being with your family most of the time,” he said. “I like the fact that my sons are growing up the same way I did. It allows me to instill my principles and values in them every day.” Wilson said trying new things is what has kept their farm afloat when a lot of others have gone under.
“If you’re not constantly taking care of your fish, you won’t be in the fish business long because they won’t survive,” he said. “And I want consumers to know that when they eat fish grown on our farm they getting a safe, delicious product grown by farmers who care about what they do.”
Alabama has about 200 catfish farmers who grow fish in 19,200 acres of water. The state ranks second in the nation in catfish production, and in 2010 produced 137 million pounds of catfish valued at $106 million.