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Fresh from the Start sales rep 'hooked' on produce

RIVERHEAD, NY -- Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip. It started from a Long Island port aboard a not-so-tiny ship. For those who grow up on the east end of New York's Long Island, fishing is in the blood. For Paul Visentin, fishing was not only an activity, but it also led to an unlikely career in produce.

"I started fishing when I was two years old," Mr. Visentin said. "You can't live on eastern Long Island without fishing."

During his summer breaks from the University of Delaware, Mr. Visentin, 27, said that he worked as a mate on a charter fishing boat out of Shinnecock, NY, that would go deep-sea canyon fishing anywhere between 30 and 100 miles offshore for tuna, shark and marlin.

Mr. Visentin got his captain's license after graduating college with a degree in wildlife conservation and environmental science. He captained a 52-foot sportfishing boat for two years that spent time in both Long Island and Florida, but because he missed being away from home, he started looking for a new job that would allow him to be closer to his friends and family. That's where the produce industry came in.

Eric Scannelli, the company's sales manager, here, had a boat in the same marina where Mr. Visentin worked.

After coming back home from Florida and working for a summer, winter soon rolled around and Mr. Visentin found himself not wanting to leave Long Island again. He struck up a conversation with Mr. Scannelli, whom he had known since he was a child. After some discussions, he found himself with a job offer.

"I knew Eric from being down at the marina," he said. "He knew how hard I worked and decided to give me a chance. One thing led to another and the rest is history."

Now in his third year in sales for Fresh from the Start LLC, a division of ADS Management LLC, Mr. Visentin handles both eastern vegetables and its Maine broccoli deal. Though he never expected a career in produce, he is quite pleased with his position.

"Some people punch numbers all day and go home," he said. "You did work, but what did you actually accomplish? I like the challenge of selling produce. It is definitely not repetitive and is an accomplishment when you get a sale."

Though Fresh from the Start keeps him busy, it still affords him the opportunity to be close to his friends and family, including his girlfriend Jackie and his four-legged friends Tex and Sprig, the couple's Labrador retrievers. Since he works from the company's eastern Long Island headquarters, Mr. Visentin still finds time for fishing and, in fact, he still captains a boat on the weekends that he is not working at Fresh from the Start.

"It is peaceful," he said about fishing. "Just like produce, though, it is different every time. Just when you think you have the fish figured out, something changes. It is a great challenge and I love introducing people to the hobby, because it is a team sport, not just about the person reeling it in."

It seems that just as with fishing, Mr. Visentin is hooked on his new-found produce career.