Featured Image: Fluit sisters, Brandi (left) and Amberly (right)
Since their arrival to the Baker & Murakami Produce team in October, sisters Brandi and Amberly Fluit have by their very presence added to the close-knit element of the company.
Principals Jerry and Steve Baker, father and son whose Baker Packing Co. has long been a major player in the Idaho-Eastern Oregon onion industry, and Grant Kitamura, who has headed up the equally strong Murakami Produce for decades, are known in the industry for their commitment not only to the packing and shipping side but also to the growers who dedicate their crops to the recently merged operation in Ontario, OR.
The women, who live in the nearby community of Weiser, ID, are a perfect fit in the “family” of Baker & Murakami and have hit the ground running, much to the delight of anyone who talks to them.
Products of a farming background, the women are comfortable in their new setting. Amberly, the younger of the sisters, told us, “We were born and raised on a little farm in Lynden, WA. Our mom and dad, Amy and Doug Fluit, always had something for us kids to help with, from raising and feeding calves to planting thousands of trees for our parents’ tree farm – and much more.”
Both of the young women graduated from Lynden High School, she said, and in 2012 Doug, Amy and Amberly moved to Weiser.
“Our dad raises local alfalfa and grass hay on a 400-acre farm,” Amberly said. Amy manages the household and helps Doug on the farm. “They live in Weiser, in the Mann Creek area. Their ranch use to be an old elk farm,” Amberly added.
Brandi and her husband, Randy Mitteer, moved that same year to North Dakota, and in 2016 the couple moved to the Mann Creek Area in Weiser as well, and Brandi began her career in the onion industry with Four Rivers Onion Packing.
“I am married to a wonderful, hard-working man,” Brandi said. “My husband works as a diesel shop mechanic manager in Watford City, ND. We do not have any kids – just two large dogs that we sometimes consider to be kids.”
Though she had no previous experience, Brandi took to onions well. And Amberly told us her onion background was “just eating them on a burger!” But the two show a refreshing eagerness to learn and commitment to hard work. Could it be growing up on a farm?
Brandi, though chronologically a Millennial, said she didn’t consider herself a member of that particular “club.”
Down to earth and practical, she said, “Our family has always been hard workers. My parents are self-starters and have worked for themselves for most of their marriage. They taught us that since we are a family and we eat together, work is a team function.” That’s a principle, she said, that she’s taken with her to all of her past jobs.
And, she added, Amberly is similarly predisposed.
“My sister and myself have a hard time sitting still,” Brandi said. “We always have to be moving.”
Brandi told us she is “wearing multiple hats” at Baker & Murakami. “At the moment my main goal is to get the shed running more smoothly and efficiently,” she said. And when asked what her favorite part of the job is, she answered, “I enjoy working with the people.”
She continued, “I hope to gain more knowledge about the new technology that is coming out in this industry, and I believe I have the best opportunity possible here at Baker & Murakami to accomplish that goal. I hope to help them continue to be the most efficient company in the onion business.”
Looking to the future, Brandi said simply, “If I am able to continue learning in this industry, I do not see myself searching for another profession.”
Younger sister Amberly is not married but told us her boyfriend, Gavin Eisenbarth, works for Aspen Creek Construction. At Baker & Murakami she works in the sales office and enters orders for Jerry and Steve Baker. “Every now and then I am able to sneak out of the office to the shed and help my sister out,” Amberly said. “The best part of this industry is all the effort, hard work and dedication that goes in to making it better and more efficient.”
And, she said, “I am hopeful about working my way into a sales position down the road. My desk is right between Jerry and Steve Baker, which helps me learn and understand what is going on in the onion industry.”
At the office, she enthusiastically learns the onion industry from experts; away form the job, Amberly is “very passionate about training horses and barrel racing.”
She explained she has a “a very hard-working boyfriend and a few dogs” and “other than that I am focused on my career in the onion industry and on barrel racing.”
The perfect example that Millennials are not all cut from the same cloth, Amberly said she is “very grateful for everything my family has taught me. They have always taught me how to think outside the box and how to be successful without trying to be like everyone else.”
Moreover, she said, “My parents and big sister have been huge role models for me in my life. My mom has been my biggest cheerleader, and my sister has always been very self-disciplined and hard working. My dad is your typical hard-working farmer, waking up at the crack of dawn and working on the farm until the sun sets.”
Drawing from an example she holds dear, Amberly said Doug is “the definition of the speech, ‘So God made a Farmer’ by Paul Harvey. Seeing these rituals every day of my life has really made me the person and the Millennial I am today.”
This portrait of two sisters is, we think, absolutely perfect for Thanksgiving. And we could offer no two more perfect examples of family togetherness than Brandi and Amberly Fluit, through whose eyes the onion industry is new and fresh and absolutely the right career.
In fact, Amberly said in 10 years she expects to be a part of the extended industry family.
“I see myself in a sales position at Baker & Murakami,” she said of her hopes. And her dreams? “I also see myself having my own business in training and selling my own line of barrel horses.”
Thanks to the Fluits and to Baker & Murakami Produce for this feel-good story. Isn’t this what Thanksgiving is all about?
Photos courtesy of Brandi and Amberly Fluit