It’s not often you meet someone who wrestles alligators for a living, but that is literally what Bruce Mitchell does. Honestly.
When Bruce married Janet back in 1980, he married into a family that ran the world’s first and largest alligator farm dating back five decades. Tucked in the swamps and bayous of Louisiana, Bruce started farming alligators at the tender age of 20, along with his wife and father-in-law.
From what was once a working farm harvesting alligator and turtle meat, the facility has evolved into one of the top tourist destinations in Louisiana, teaching about native animals and southern Louisiana heritage. “Our farm has become an educational facility,” says Bruce. “We have a South Louisiana Heritage Museum and Educational Alligator Tour. We love educating local and non-local guests about our area, our ecosystem, conservation and culture. We just opened our new facility in Hammond, Louisiana – Mitchell’s Swamp Adventures.”
Such an unusual line of work results in unusual reactions from strangers. “We always start off slow when it comes to what we do for a living,” Bruce admits. “We tell people we have a farm, and sometimes they leave it at that. But if the conversation goes further, we’ll tell them we actually have an alligator and turtle farm – and then the questions roll!”
Fame hit when Bruce was asked by the A&E Network to participate in a documentary on the History Channel. How could he say no? As a result of the exposure, it was inevitable Bruce should become known as Bruce the Alligator Man.
Then he blended social media with his love of country cooking and started Bruce’s Front Porch Cooking Show. The result is a larger-than-life country boy as friendly in person as his videos and interviews imply.
In years past, alligators and turtles were the livestock. “When there was a market for baby green turtles and red eared sliders, we would sell over a million a year oversees,” remembers Bruce. “That market died and no longer exists. Gator farms provide meat, hides, gator products to sell like heads and feet. If done right, there is no part of the gator that is wasted. Alligators were on the endangered animals list due to the overhunting and environmental interruptions by humans. Through research and conservation, they are one of the few animals that have been removed from the endangered species list and are now thriving. Actually, gators are almost overpopulating our swamps, rivers and bayous.”
Aside from reptile conservation, Bruce’s other passion is cooking, and he has consolidated his culinary wisdom into cookbooks. “My cookbook is something that we thought about and planned for a long time,” he says. “We finally started creating the first one, and it was such a hit that we decided to make a second.”
Bruce concentrates on downhome Southern meal ideas that many people outside of Louisiana have never even heard of. “You can easily substitute any meat ingredient with a more common one,” he emphasizes. “My second cookbook is all about outdoor cooking. Dutch oven cooking is one of our favorite ways to cook, especially when camping. This cookbook gives lots of recipes and even a guide to how many coals to use, that kind of thing.”
Editor’s Note: Lehman’s hosted Bruce in August 2021 and 2022, where he shared his experience with our customers. For the latest store events and visitors coming to Lehman’s, check out our store events page.