Two of Idaho-E. Oregon’s longest-tenured industry members, Jerry Baker of Baker & Murakami Produce in Ontario, OR, and Herb Haun, founding member of Haun Packing in Weiser, ID, were inducted into the Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Association Hall of Fame on Feb. 7.
The ceremony was held during the luncheon portion of this year’s Idaho-Malheur County Onion Growers Association Meeting, with a good crowd on hand to congratulate the two men. Herb attended the event to accept his award, and Jerry’s son and partner, Steve Baker, was on hand to accept Jerry’s award in his absence.
Baker & Murakami Produce is the product of a 2017 merger that brought together two of the Treasure Valley’s largest operations, Baker Packing and Murakami Produce, into a single powerhouse.
Baker Packing began as an onion division for DeBruyn Produce in 1972, headed by Jerry Baker. The longtime produce man ran the business out of a 7,200-square foot warehouse on the same land that is now home to Baker & Murakami Produce. Steve Baker joined his father in the business in 1984, and the company became Baker Packing in 1997.
Haun Packing was launched in 1999 by Herb and his brother Fred, along with grower Stuart Syme, combined forces. Fred was president of the company and headed up grower operations. Herb was VP and oversaw sales. Haun Packing sold in 2022 to David Navarrete and his wife Angie, along with his brothers Christian and Paul Navarrete and relaunched as Weiser Onion Produce with Herb working in sales and consulting.
Well-respected in the industry, both Herb and Jerry have had remarkable careers, as noted in their bios read during the Hall of Fame presentation.
Jerry was born on March 11, 1939, in Oregon City, OR. When he was just nine months old, Jerry lost his father, Alfred Schmitz, in a logging accident. Jerry and his older brother, Jim, and younger brother, Rick, were raised by their mother and dad, Violet and George Baker.
Jerry grew up on a dairy farm in Vale, OR, and was about seven years old when he started helping on the farm.
“He was up every morning milking cows,” his bio said. “He spent a lot of time riding horses and fighting with his older brother, Jim.” Jerry let it be known that Jim had a temper, and younger Jerry liked to tease him.
All of his schooling was in Vale, and when Jerry was younger, he was on the football team.
“As he grew older and had more responsibilities on the farm, he wasn’t able play football,” the bio continued. “Jerry made a deal with Jim; Jim would do the afternoon chores, and Jerry would do the morning chores. This arrangement would give Jerry the opportunity to play basketball.:
He was also involved with FFA and 4-H and graduated from Vale High School in 1957.
“Jerry has never shied away from hard work and commented that he has always had two jobs. As a young man he was driving a milk truck, picking up 115-pound full milk cans in the morning. He would get done early with the milk cans and go buck onions for growers in Vale.:
He also worked as a Produce Inspector for five years in the Oregon Department of Agriculture Inspection Service. Following that he worked three years at Ore-Ida Foods, where he ran the fresh pack potato and onion department. He also did field work and onion sales,” the bio said.
Jerry Baker ran DeBruyn Produce for over 20 years.
“There was little there when they started. It was an old, abandoned warehouse. Over the years he has added to the facility and eventually he purchased DeBruyn Produce and turned it into what it is today as Baker Packing” and the site of Baker & Murakami Produce.
The bio continued, “Jerry and his wife Judy met in Nampa about 17 years ago. They have seven children, six grandchildren, and 17 great-grandchildren. Jerry and Judy live on the same piece of land that Jerry has lived on since his family moved here in 1945, when he was six years old. Jerry was gone for a little while, and when he returned, he purchased the property from his dad.”
Active in the community and the industry, Jerry has served on many committees and still does. He was President of the Idaho-Oregon Fruit and Vegetable Association from 1977-1978, served on the Idaho-E. Oregon Onion Marketing Order Committee for over 20 years and has served on the State of Oregon Inspection Advisory Board for over 51 years.
Jerry has also served on the Vale Water Board for 15 years and was just appointed for another three. He is a pillar in the agriculture community.
Jerry Baker images: click to enlarge and scroll.
Herb was born to Herb and Dorothy Dickerson Haun on Dec. 23, 1955, in Weiser, ID. He has an older sister, Altha, and older brother, Fred, as well as a younger brother, Terry.
During his schooling in Weiser, Herb was part of the “Galloway Gang.”
His bio said, “This gang of youngsters roamed the streets of Weiser, looking for little old ladies to help cross the street.:
In high school Herb played basketball and football. “He tried track, but he was too slow,” the bio said, adding, “Rumor has it he was only fast with the girls.”
Graduating from Weiser High School in 1974, Herb went on to attend Treasure Valley Community College, where he majored in Fly Rod Building.
“He had a hard time passing the class, so he kept taking it over and over,” his bio said. “As any good fly fisherman knows you can’t have too many fly rods.”
The bio went on to say, “When Herb was 14, he started in the onion business by sweeping out Parson’s Packing Shed.:
He also served in the United States Air Force and the Idaho National Guard.
“When he was 21, he started working at Parson’s Packing shed fulltime. Herb started as the shed foreman and then Bob moved him into sales.”
The bio also said, “Eight months after Herb returned from the Air Force, he and Kelly were married in Weiser. Herb and Kelly have two children: their daughter Elizabeth and her husband Darin Heftie, and their son Rob and his wife Brianne. Herb and Kelly have seven grandchildren – Elizabeth and Darin’s twins, Matthew and Andrew, and daughters Hannah and Grace; and Rob and Brianne’s children Kaycee, TJ,who now lives with Jesus, and Kaleb.
For years Herb has been an active community member as well as committee member, serving on the Community Church Board as well as the Malheur Dist. Improvement Company. He is a board member for the Future Wolverine Foundation, and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Western Treasure Valley.
Herb served as the Idaho-Oregon Fruit and Vegetable Association President from 1989 to 1990, served on the Idaho-E. Oregon Onion Marketing Order Committee for over 20 years and served as Marketing Order Chairman from 2006-2012.
Herb has also served as a member of the Promotion Committee and as Promotion Committee Chairman, and he served on the Export Committee.
His bio said, “Herb has gone on missions to Honduras, has built houses in Mexico and helped clean up after a hurricane in Puerto Rico. He is active in jail ministry in Washington County Jail through Celebrate Recovery, an organization which he co-founded in Weiser.:
A Community Youth Group Leader for 12 years, Herb now enjoys refereeing basketball all over the valley.
Herb Haun images: click to enlarge and scroll.