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Westendorf employee reaps rewards of hard work

It is said that familiarity breeds contempt, but for Ryan Frayo, nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, familiarity has played a large part in helping the 27-year-old get to where he is today: a broker for Westendorf Produce Sales Inc. where he sells western vegetables, strawberries and melons.

Westendorf Produce Sales is a produce brokerage with offices in Nogales, AZ, San Clemente, CA, and Visalia, CA, that specializes in tree fruit, melons, and fruit and vegetable products from Mexico that come through Nogales.

Growing up in Spreckles, CA, just outside Salinas, Mr. Frayo was surrounded by the area's vast farmland. That, along with his love for the outdoors, helped lay the foundation for Mr. Frayo to get his start in the produce industry.

"It is the surroundings I grew up in and where I felt comfortable," he said.

Mr. Frayo recalls spending the spring and summertime at a junior high school classmate's home, a home that he absolutely loved.

When he found out that his classmate's father was a produce broker, Mr. Frayo knew that this was what he wanted to do for a living as well. "I wanted to achieve what he had achieved, he said.

Mr. Frayo started working toward that achievement when, at 17 years old, he was offered a job doing irrigation work in the fields at Ron Peter Citrus Management in Lindsay, CA. It was not long before he moved up to driving a tractor and then to pesticide application.

After a semester at the College of the Sequoias in Visalia, CA, Mr. Frayo realized he wanted to continue working in the produce industry on a full-time basis. "I was planning to do something in either agricultural science or agricultural farm management, but all of the people I grew up with started to work in the industry, he said.

Following his friends' leads, Mr. Frayo left college to work with Kleen Globe in Castroville, CA, in pesticide application. It is a decision he does not regret.

"I saw all my friends in the industry that didn't go to college doing better than those that were in college or had just graduated, he said. "I went right for the jugular."

After a year with Kleen Globe, Mr. Frayo landed a job working for Quality Fresh Inspections in Salinas, CA, where, as a commercial inspector, he traveled through the Imperial and Yuma valleys and Nogales, AZ. Mr. Frayo looked back on these travels as some of the highlights of his young career.

"Being able to travel and the relationships and connections I have made are priceless, he said. "I have met so many great people in my journey.

After nine years as both an in-house and commercial inspector with several different companies, Mr. Frayo is looking forward to the opportunity of working at Westendorf Produce Sales, as he enjoys working with people involved in the produce industry.

"There is a camaraderie that you just don't see anywhere else, he said.

Though his new position will now have him working indoors in the company's Visalia, CA, office, Mr. Frayo's home and hobbies still allow him time to be in the great outdoors that he so thoroughly enjoys.

He lives with his dog, Bella, on the 4F's Ranch, his grandfather's 15-acre former cattle ranch located on the outskirts of Visalia. An avid bird and deer hunter since he was 10 years old, Mr. Frayo also enjoys bass and trout fishing, wake and snow boarding, hiking and golf. Mr. Frayo has a keen interest in cars, especially muscle cars from the 1960s and '70s, and he goes to the Famoso Raceway in Bakersfield, CA, several times a year to watch the drag races and check out the nostalgic cars on display there.

Although his dream car would be a 1966 Chevelle Super Sport, Mr. Frayo is the proud owner of a 1974 Chevy Silverado 4x4 pickup truck, which he has been fixing up over the past year, as well as a Honda motorcycle.

If you thought that Mr. Frayo had enough to keep him occupied in his spare time, guess again. He is also a musician and plays several instruments including the guitar, drums, bass and even a little piano.

Mr. Frayo started playing the violin when he was just eight years old but decided to switch to guitar soon after. "I wanted to play every instrument I could get my hands on, he said.

Recently, Mr. Frayo and four of his friends -- all employed in the produce industry -- started a band they named Mesoo's, and Mr. Frayo is the band's guitarist. "We all found each other through the industry, he said. "We play blues to heavy metal and everything in between.

Though he has reached the goal that he set for himself back in junior high school, Mr. Frayo considers himself fortunate just to be part of the produce industry. So what more might he envision for his future? When asked that exact question, Mr. Frayo summed it up in two words: "selling veggies."