Chris Ellis and why he is proud to be a gator farmer
CHIPLEY, Fla. (WTVY) - We are chomping at the bits to tell this story.
Chris Ellis, who grew up with his dad on the farm, got his experience in farming early.
While he knew he wanted to keep farming a part of his life, it was News4′s Ag Report with Gene Ragan that helped Ellis determine what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.
“He happened to be interviewing an alligator farmer in Alabama, and so I told myself that looks pretty interesting,” said Ellis. “I told my wife, ‘Hey, we’re going to be alligator farmers,’ and she thought I lost my mind.”
Ellis got into the alligator business back in 1997. Throughout his time with the farm, the purpose of the farm has changed multiple times.
“Originally, we got in the business for the hides and the meat. Then, we started leasing or selling alligators to exhibitors throughout the Panhandle for the tourist trade,” said Ellis. “Then, about five years ago, I was telling my wife we’ve always had a lot of people wanting to come. Let’s open it up, make it tourist-friendly, and see if we can attract some of the people that come to Panama City.”
There are more than 600 alligators throughout the Orange Hill Gator Farm, some small enough to fit in your hands and some big enough to keep your hands away from.
Those who come for a farm tour have the opportunity to get into the pit with the baby gators, feed them and hold them.
For those intimidated by alligators, there are plenty of other animals at the farm to interact with.
“We’ve got three big sulcata tortoises, two coyotes that are rescues, rabbits that the kids can feed, then we’ve got some goats that the kids can feed the goats,” said Ellis. “So, that allows the people, or kids you might say, to decompress from feeding alligators and be able to pet something.”
This line of work is a labor of love, regardless of livestock, crops or whatever is being farmed. Interactions between the people and animals remind Ellis why he is proud to be a farmer.
“The reason is I enjoy what I do as far as raising animals and providing an opportunity for people to come to the farm,” said Ellis. “It’s a blessing and a gift given to me that I’m able to do this.”
Those interested in visiting Orange Hill Gator Farm can book a tour through the contact information found on their website by clicking here.
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