Featured image: Kay Riley (left) with NOA Executive Vice Pres. Greg Yielding (right) at July NOA meeting in Boise Idaho, photo courtesy of the NOA.
Nearly five decades have come and gone since Kay Riley started his career in the produce business, with most of those years devoted to Treasure Valley onions and the onion industry as a whole.
And at the National Onion Association Convention held in Boise in July, Kay was honored with the organization’s first Lifetime Achievement Award for his many contributions to an industry in which he has long been a respected – and now recently retired – leader.
“The award is the first of its kind for the NOA and will be given to recipients as occasions arise,” Association Director of Public and Industry Relations René Hardwick said.
The award, presented by NOA Executive Vice President Greg Yielding, stated: “For decades of commitment, leadership and service to the National Onion Association.” Our thanks to the NOA for its photo of the occasion.
Hardwick wrote, “Riley accepted the award, noting that he was there not for his own efforts but for those of others who helped him along the way.”
In June the longtime onion man retired from his thirty-plus year role as general manager of Snake River Produce in Nyssa, OR. In addition to that title, over his long career Kay served as president of the NOA and chairman of the Idaho-E. Oregon Onion Committee, along with many other industry boards and commissions, working with elected and appointed officials on a wide range of issues that included food safety and immigration.
And of course, he helped lead Snake River Produce to its prominence in the industry.
For more than a half-century before SRP was founded in Oregon, the original Nyssa facility was part of Muir-Roberts, a Salt Lake City-based company. That branch of Muir-Roberts was sold in 1999 to Riley, who had been MR’s vice president of operations, and his partners.
“I was fortunate to go into business with exceptionally good people, and I was also fortunate to have exceptionally good employees along the way,” he said. He also said his wife, Karen, has been a blessing and helpmate with “her love and support over all these years.”
Prior to his June retirement, Kay told OnionBusiness the years had many milestones, and he said, “The real significant part was to form the business with four other of the finest individuals you could ever associate with, Reid Saito, Ken Teramura, Les Ito and Ross Nishihara, all onion growers in the Treasure Valley. The four of them grew the onions, and I ran the business and sold the onions.”
Of course, Snake River Produce saw change over time, with the addition of new partners Pat Takasugi, Randy, and Brian Kameshige. When Pat passed away, his wife, Suzanne, assumed his ownership. In recent years growers, Kevin Corn and Chris Payne became partners and in January 2022 assumed full ownership, bringing on General Manager Joshua Frederick.
In late August, as Kay looked back over his career, he told us, “I’ve reflected back, and life is a bit like a mirage. It’s here, and then it’s gone. It’s been 49 years since I got started in the industry, and yet it seems like yesterday.”
About retirement, Kay said, “I’ve been busy and haven’t quite figured it out yet.” He has “hinted” he’ll spend time traveling, hunting and fishing.
OnionBusiness congratulates Kay Riley on his lifetime of contributions and his Lifetime Achievement Award. Well done, Mr. Riley.