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Fresh From The Start's Janna Fitje has the 'write stuff

Janna Fitje got her start in produce quite by chance.

The 23-year-old, who graduated from Fairfield University in Fairfield, CT, in 2005 with a degree in English and philosophy, basically "stumbled upon" her current position as a sales assistant at Fresh From The Start LLC, a grower- shipper that is a division of ADS Management in Riverhead, NY.

"It's nothing that I ever thought I would be into," Ms. Fitje said about her first job in produce. "Honestly, at first I had no idea what to expect because I had never worked with anything like this before."

Ms. Fitje said that her duties include helping out in sales, accounting and transportation, where she handles most of the paperwork.

"I enter everything into our computer systems and double and triple and quadruple check everything," she said.

Ms. Fitje noted that "while it's nice to be able to talk to people from all different places, sometimes it can be a little trying. It's a lot of communicating and a lot of keeping on top of stuff, and I definitely appreciate that challenge."

When asked if she felt that her age has helped or hindered her, she replied that "being young has been a positive in a lot of ways. When you have to deal with people constantly, and all different types of people from all different parts of the nation, you really get a good sense of how to handle yourself professionally when you need to."

She suggested that young people entering the industry learn "how to really communicate with people," although she noted that often "it is something that has to be learned through practice - you can't just have that on your own."

She added, "Definitely keep an open mind. Some people aren't that easy to communicate with, and it is important not to let them get you down. It is something that is only beneficial."

Ms. Fitje said she "loves to do anything and everything" in her spare time. "I am a firm believer in keeping the things you love as a constant pastime." She certainly has many things to keep her busy.

She loves traveling and has been on cruises that have called on Aruba and several Caribbean islands. Though she said she would like to travel to Europe, "there is no place that I would turn down, that's for sure."

A self described "book nerd," Ms. Fitje said she tries to "keep as much well roundedness in my life as possible," and she accomplishes that by writing, drawing and playing several musical instruments.

"I still consider myself a writer and still work on my writing as much as possible," she said.

Ms. Fitje has already amassed an impressive r?sum?, having worked as an assistant editor for Dogwood, a national journal of short fiction and poetry sponsored by Fairfield University, and as an editorial assistant at Nickelodeon magazine in New York City as part of a college internship.

She also served as a reporter and copy editor for her college paper, The Mirror, as much as she could over the four years at Fairfield.

Ms. Fitje noted that she was fortunate to have a professor who "ran the paper," which allowed her to submit articles that covered events affiliated with the school and human interest pieces on "students' feelings on certain things that were juxtaposed with college life there."

She added, "I have a lot of friends in the publishing industry that are always looking for me to copyedit something or help them out," she said, adding that she has dozens of unfinished manuscripts sitting around her house. Ms. Fitje said that she started copying pictures with pencils when she was younger, and although she never took an art class before college, one of her drawings, a self-portrait, was exhibited at the Walsh Gallery, a privately owned gallery on the Fairfield University campus, in 2004.

She is also an accomplished musician and opera singer who has been playing piano since age three, the clarinet since third grade and even taught herself how to play the saxophone and flute in seventh grade.

"My brother had a saxophone and my cousin had the flute, and I figured if the back of the book shows me the fingering, it can't be that hard," she said, noting that she played the clarinet in the school band since elementary school.

In college, she sang in the university women's ensemble, the glee club and the chamber singers. She described the latter as a "select group" that traveled and performed in churches and cathedrals in Boston, Rhode Island, New York City and Philadelphia.

It was with the chamber singers that Ms. Fitje got to sing an opera piece known as "The Requiem" twice in college -- once with soloists from around the world, and then again with the Mendelssohn Choir of Connecticut and the Greater Connecticut Symphony Orchestra.

Ms. Fitje went back to do a special performance for the 60th anniversary of the glee club at Fairfield University earlier this year, and while she still tries to visit and work with her alma mater as much as she can, she said that most of her other performances of late have been at karaoke bars.

She has recently taken a stab at composing music and has also done research on other instruments and to see how well they work with the ones she plays, because she said she would like to learn to play other instruments.

Her father plays the guitar, and while she said that so far she has been unsuccessful in her attempts to learn to play it, she is still trying.

It is that determination that will serve her well in her new career in produce.