By Mary Johnson
Derry Bone was raised on a cattle farm in Marion Junction, but when it came time to strike out on his own, Bone traded pasture land for ponds. "I was hungry for change, and I wanted to try something different," Bone said.
His skill and dedication earned him the title of Alabama's 2013 Catfish Farmer of the Year. Bone was selected as this year's winner by the Alabama Catfish Producers, a division of the Alabama Farmers Federation, at the annual Commodity Organizational Conference Feb. 12 in Montgomery.
"I am really honored to receive the recognition," said Bone, who has worked for David Pearce Catfish Farms in Dallas County for 18 years. "I work for a great family, and I hope I can represent the state well."
Bone is represented Alabama's catfish industry at the International Boston Seafood Show March 9-12. It's the largest seafood show in America. He will be featured in promotional ads for CFA with the Mississippi and Arkansas catfish farmers of the year.
As Alabama's honoree, Bone will focus much of his time away from the ponds talking to restaurants and grocers to be certain they're buying U.S. farm-raised catfish. He urges consumers to do the same.
"I want them to know where their fish come from, and demand the best," he said. "I think restaurant owners can do a better job making sure their employees know where the catfish they serve comes from and everything else on the menu, too."
Bone manages 121 ponds on 1,387 acres. In an average year, the farms raise 13 million to 14 million pounds of channel catfish. As manager, he does a little bit of everything at the farm.
Johnson writes for the Alabama Farmers Federation.