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There’s Something Fishy About Marilyn Doane’s Business

April 3, 1988

BELMONT, Mich. (AP) _ Having hooked area markets and restaurants with her pitch for locally-grown fish, Marilyn Doane has netted the first profits from the trout-farming business she began three years ago.

A venture that started with 1,000 fingerlings now operates on a bigger scale: 42,000 fish, 17 ponds and some 35 commercial customers in the Grand Rapids area.

Doane’s Country Lane Fisheries also has begun showing a little profit for the former carpenter.

″It turned around in January; I made $6,″ Doane said.

Before starting her fishery, the 38-year-old Doane knew little about the fish-farming business.

She was a trained secretary, who along with her husband Roger built and operated a mobile home park while also operating their own heavy construction equipment. They sold the park in 1981 and moved to Alaska - flying in a restored 1947 fabric-covered airplane - and on returning bought a 30-acre topsoil farm in Belmont, just north of Grand Rapids.

The couple rented out a house to a biologist and an ichthyologist, who said their farmland was just right for raising trout, a fish that likes cool water year-round.

The observations spawned the idea for a trout farm.

Marilyn Doane took an intensive, two-week course in cold-water fish hatching at the National Fisheries Academy in Traverse City and gave up her carpentry job to go into the business.

She started with 1,000 fingerlings and in a couple of years built a business that now sells about 3,000 fish a month, overcoming obstacles such as a 1986 dam break that flooded her ponds and cost her 6,000 fish.

The business supplies 35 commercial customers, including 20 D&W supermarkets in the Grand Rapids area, restaurants, country clubs and fish stores. Doane is putting in more ponds and building an addition to her house for more efficient fish processing.

″Its potential is almost beyond what I can imagine,″ Doane said.

Her biggest sales point is that the fish are locally grown.

″The hot button in the food business is locally raised products,″ said John Astma, D&W’s meat manager who promotes the fish with signs like ″Marilyn’s Trout - grown in Belmont″ at the chain’s fish counters.

Astma convinced D&W executives to carry Doane’s trout in their stores by bringing the chain’s president and vice president of marketing to the farm for a picnic. It cinched the deal.

″You just have to be there to understand what’s going on,″ Astma said.

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