Woman reeling in a new life
Fish farm work spawns big dreams
MONTROSE — Working at a fish farm might not be desirable to some, but for Kelly Green of Montrose, it’s the beginning of a new life.
Green, 48, a Colorado native, returned to her home state this spring after spending nearly two years studying aquaculture in Hawaii. She works at Silver Springs Trout Farm just north of Montrose, lives in a trailer on the premises and raises rainbow trout from the fertilized eggs of trophy-size fish. The rainbows are then hauled live to customers, mostly owners of private ponds.
As she walked around long, narrow tanks holding different-sized baby trout, Green explained that different-sized pellets of vegetable protein go to the different groups.
“It takes a year for them to grow up, and we sell them when they’re between 10 and 14 inches,” she said. “The rainbow trout is a cool animal. The evolution it’s been through is phenomenal.”
As the fish grow, they’re moved to a succession of different tanks, all fed by spring water, including a long, terraced raceway that uses gravity to keep the water flowing.
Because this is her first job in her new field, Green knows she’ll have to work her way up.
“I’m a woman in a man-dominated field, but I’ll start in hatcheries and then prove myself,” she said.
Green has proved herself in several jobs. With a degree in education, she ran a preschool when her children were small and later worked with the Voyager Youth Program in Ouray County. She was a building department clerk in Ouray County for about five years and worked for the city of Montrose’s maintenance department.
“I ran the sewer camera and did GIS and GPS for the city,” she said. “I loved the job, but there was not a whole lot of potential.”
Aquaculture offers the potential for working with different kinds of fish, she said, and she particularly likes sturgeon, which produce caviar. She worked at a sturgeon farm in Hawaii and said the caviar can be surgically harvested without killing the female. Sturgeon can grow as large as 100 pounds and are friendly fish that like to be petted, she said.
Working with the big fish helped Green cope with being so far away from son Jake, 17, and daughter Samantha, 21, who live in Ridgway.
“The sturgeon were my surrogate family, and I was mama,” she said. “I watched them grow up, just like in preschool.”
Green received a bachelor of science degree in agriculture with a concentration in aquaculture from the University of Hawaii. Because she was able to transfer credits from her first degree and carried a heavy credit load, she finished the four-year program in 21 months.
Green’s blue eyes sparkled as she talked about the possibilities of working in places such as Fiji, New Zealand or Jamaica.
“There are fish farms all over the world,” she said.
Or, she could eventually teach or start a farm of her own with all kinds of crops and animals, including fish.
“I could use fish water to fertilize and be sustainable and sell to local markets,” she said.