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Rural lifestyle unbeatable for Ryan Fagerberg

EATON, CO -- At a time when young people are flocking from rural America to seek their way in concrete urban jungles, 23-year-old Ryan Fagerberg is a young man who's breaking the rules.

Mr. Fagerberg, son of Fagerberg Produce Co. founder Lynn Fagerberg, is quite a chip off the old block. In early July, a little more than seven months following his graduation from Colorado State University in Fort Collins, CO, he found himself happy, contented and thriving in the area he knows like the back of his hand.

Aside from his birth, which took place in Greeley, Mr. Fagerberg said that he has lived most of his life within a three-mile radius. "I went all through school in Eaton," he told The Produce News. Despite a booming family business, Mr. Fagerberg said that his parents had the wisdom to give him all the leeway he needed make his mind up on his own.

"My parents encouraged me to see what was out there," he said. "Growing up, to be honest, I wasn't interested [in the family business.] Dad didn't pressure me to follow in his footsteps."

By the time he was a junior at CSU, he was already making plans to pursue something in the field of business. Sometimes the most obvious choice is the one that's always been there. Mr. Fagerberg said that his thoughts returned to the small community he treasured and the people whose warmth and easy-going manner were as refreshing as wildflowers in the spring.

The brief time Mr. Fagerberg has been away from his home base is proof of an immutable fact: You can take the boy out of the farm country, but you can't take the farm country out of the boy. After receiving his bachelor's degree in business management, Mr. Fagerberg realized the direction in which he wanted to head. "I knew I had a good opportunity under my nose," he said of Fagerberg Produce and his ability to stretch his wings professionally.

What has struck Mr. Fagerberg so strongly is the way his personal life and work life have integrated into a neat package.

Mr. Fagerberg and his wife, Kristin, were high school sweethearts. They tied the knot in June and have settled into a new home in Windsor after a honeymoon in the Bahamas. They live close to Eaton, and Kristin, who has a degree in human development, works for the Larimer County Health Department in Fort Collins. The Fagerbergs can envision a family, "maybe in five years. It's a good place to raise a family."

No doubt Mr. Fagerberg's sister, Paige Baessler, will be a strong influence. She also works at the family business, recently had a baby and is proving to be a real inspiration.

As for the day-to-day work environment at Fagerberg Produce, Mr. Fagerberg said that it can't be beat. "My co-workers are great to be around. They're willing to help me."

Of his decision to pursue a career in the produce industry, Mr. Fagerberg said that the people he has encountered were key. "It was a really good factor [in making this career decision]," he said.

Being the new kid on the block has been exciting, and Mr. Fagerberg said that he is looking forward to the challenges of the industry. "The onion industry is constantly evolving. Dad says you have to be proactive in this business," he said.

This insight comes from a young man who casually observed, "I haven't been here long enough to have a business card."

He recognizes that working with family members can be dicey at times, but it isn't much of a deterrent. "I have a really good relationship with my dad. I know he's excited about me joining the team."

Mr. Fagerberg is enthusiastic about the 2006 harvest, saying it will help season him in his chosen profession. "I came in pretty green. But I will really learn a lot," he said.

Despite the pressures of the industry, Mr. Fagerberg makes sure there is still some down time in his life. He played golf at the Eaton Country Club while he was in high school, and last year he served as assistant coach for the school's team.

In addition, the Fagerberg family spends free time together in Estes Park, and Mr. Fagerberg said that it was a pleasure to cut loose over the July 4 holiday.