Michael Fields Agricultural Institute logo
At the intersection of food, soil, climate, farming and water.

Fishermen Reflect on November Farmer-Fisherman Dinner, Plus a New Video, Radio Interview, AgriView article

-Ryan Bradley, Fisherman, and Director, Mississippi Commercial Fisheries United, Inc., Long Beach, Mississippi, from a letter to the Sea Grant director who recommended him for our Farmer-Fisherman gathering in November in Wisconsin.
“Thank you for considering me to take part in the trip to Wisconsin to meet with farmers and discuss the Gulf Dead Zone problem. I really enjoyed the trip and learned a great deal that I will be able to share with others. I now have a better understanding of the complexity of the issue and have some ideas for what we need to be doing down here to make a difference. Allowing farmers and fishermen to meet face to face is one of the best things we can do in my opinion.

I always thought that there was nothing we could do about this problem down here in the South. I learned that this is not true. Every time we eat beef, we can choose US grass fed over US grain fed. Grass fed; as I learned is much healthier for the cattle, the consumer, and the environment due to the fact that less soil tillage is required, which means less run-off, and the overall use of less fertilizer. We even talked about helping to promote this within our southern grocery chains.

I received a lot of great feedback in regards to my stories I shared with the farmers. I spoke about a recent Duke University study in which the growing Dead Zone was correlated to the diminishing size of shrimp in the Gulf. I gave first hand testimony of how quickly Red Snapper disappear from the Dead Zone region and the uncertain fate of the reef fish eggs/ larvae that we see in the water about the same time the Dead Zone begins to take hold every year. I think what hit home the most with the farmers was when I mentioned the fact that the average age of both farmers and commercial fishermen is getting older every year. We are losing our next generation of food suppliers at an alarming rate as fewer young people are getting in to these predominately family-run businesses.”

Captain David Walker, commercial red snapper fisherman, Andalusia, Alabama, and member of the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council
“Commercial fishermen are already facing a multitude of threats in the Gulf of Mexico – recreational overfishing, political overreach, reduced access, and proposals to eliminate some commercial fishing – but we need to devote some time to addressing this growing “Dead Zone” problem.

This meeting was a great step in the right direction. Fishermen and farmers are a lot alike – we all harvest from the earth, we all provide food for the public, and we all care about leaving the environment better than we found it so our kids can carry on what we do. After spending a few days with these great men and women, I’m pretty confident we can figure out a solution to this problem so that both farmers and fishermen can survive.”

Other participating fishermen were equally eloquent, brought powerful stories to our table, and we look forward to continuing to work with them.

MFAI recently produced a short (4.5 minute) video about this connection: WATCH THE VIDEO HERE ON YOUTUBE

The Farmer-Fisherman connection was featured on a Rootstock Radio interview

Interesting 40 second radio excerpt about the Fisherman’s experience with the Dead Zone

Farmers, fishers reconnect, by Lynn Grooms, in the Agri-view newspaper, Dec. 13, 2017

Jerry Smitko, is an Attorney in the Bayou, and sits on the Louisiana Fishing Commission; she gave a presentation about the Dead Zone at the dinner.

Photos courtesy of Lynn Grooms, Agri-View