Mary Kathryn Pitman was the matriarch of a Sanger-based organic poultry business that produces Mary’s Chickens and Mary’s Turkeys, namesakes that were bestowed on her 25th wedding anniversary.
Mrs. Pitman died April 5. She was 72.
She was part of the second generation of the Pitman family business that began in 1954 with Don Pitman raising and selling free-range chicken and turkeys.
Three years earlier Mrs. Pitman was born on Feb. 16, 1951, in Hanford, the daughter of James Edward Abbott and Mary Imogene Staires. After graduating from Hanford High in 1969, she earned a bachelor of arts degree in early childhood education at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
After Mrs. Pitman married Richard Pitman, Don Pitman’s son, the couple had three sons: David, Mark and Benjamin.
After taking over the family business, Rick Pitman continued to raise turkeys but struggled to find markets outside the holiday seasons when turkeys are in high demand.
According to a story in SF Gate in November 2021, the family farm was struggling in the late 1990s when David, then attending his mother’s alma mater, suggested that the business start selling chickens again in addition to turkeys. Rick Pitman decided to expand and also to build a processing facility in Sanger.
She Fielded Turkey Orders on the Phone
Pitman Family Farms created its organic label, following the nutrition guidelines established by Mrs. Pitman, who had spent years learning about nutrition because of her own health needs: avoiding sugars, preservatives, and food additives.
After the family business began raising and selling heritage turkeys, Mrs. Pitman would answer the Thanksgiving hotline. “When I tell people on the phone that I’m Mary, their response is ‘no way,'” SF Gate reported.
The family business got a further boost when Whole Foods contracted with the Pitmans to carry their chickens and turkeys.
Mrs. Pitman is survived by her husband and sons, 10 grandchildren, her mother, and a sister.
Her funeral service was Monday morning at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Clovis. Donations in her memory may be made to Hinds Hospice, 2490 W. Shaw Ave., Suite 101, Fresno CA 93711.