Melissa Fries, duck breeder and hatchery manager for Pitman Farms, joined the FCFB Board of Directors as the poultry chairman in the fall of 2014.
Central Valley agriculture is nothing new to Fries. Her parents own and operate Jim Stollar Trucking Inc., a local trucking business that hauls for Cargill Beef Packers and Harris Ranch. Additionally, both her paternal and maternal grandparents were born and raised in the Central Valley and are grape farmers.
She admits to not being interested in agriculture until her high school orientation. “My dad begged me to go look at the FFA booth with him,” said Fries. “Basically, they told me I could take an animal science class in place of a regular science class and it was all over from there.”
While attending Washington Union High School in Easton, she was actively involved in FFA. Fries showed sheep and turkeys, competed in the FFA Creed speaking and prepared public speaking contests, as well as agriculture literacy contests.
Fries continued her education at California State University, Fresno where she majored in agriculture education with an option in animal science. During her sophomore year at Fresno State, Fries took a poultry production class taught by Michelle Ganci, which lead to her first internship at Foster Farms.
During her internship, Fries had the opportunity to write “How to Run a Hatchery,” a book for Foster Farms. When her internship concluded, Fries continued at Foster Farms handling much of the clerical work.
After six months, she took a position as their transportation clerk, where she stayed for two years and managed all of the chick deliveries to the proper grow-out ranches. Lastly, Fries served as the quality control representative where she spent her last three years with Fosters Farms taking care of egg breakouts, environmental testing of the hatchery, as well as analyzing data to find solutions within the hatchery. “I wouldn’t know a thing about hatching a bird if it wasn’t for that job,” Fries said.
Today, Fries manages the duck breeding and hatchery operations for Pitman Farms, a third generation family owned business that raises free-range birds. She oversees the breeders from the time they begin to lay, through the remainder of their life cycle. “It’s important to make sure the ducks get into production the correct way and start laying eggs,” said Fries.
Additionally, she supervises the 28-day incubation of eggs that were laid by the breeders. Once the ducks hatch, they are sent to a farm to continue their growth.
Fries saw an opportunity to gain more knowledge about the industry through participation on the FCFB Board when Michelle Ganci stepped down as the poultry chairman. Additionally, she wanted to give back to the community that had given her so much.
“I like learning about all the new issues that I wouldn’t know about otherwise and I really look forward to the more political side of agriculture, I’ve already learned so much,” said Fries, adding that she wants to be a voice for the poultry industry.
When Melissa is not spending her time hatching ducklings, she enjoys riding quads and sand rails at Pismo Beach with her family or cheering on the San Francisco Giants, her favorite baseball team.
Meet Your Board Members Profile: Ag Today, Jun 15
By: Michelle Brasil