Ontario, OR — In a duo announcement made July 22, Ontario-based Baker & Murakami Produce, one of the largest onion shippers in the Northwest, welcomed the longtime Idaho-E. Oregon father/son onion growing team of Paul and Logan Skeen as ownership partners in Baker & Murakami Produce.
The two recently became part of the company’s owner-grower group.
At the same time Baker & Murakami Partner/COO Cameron Skeen also welcomed onion industry veteran Trish Lovell to the Ontario, Or-based sales department.
He said the connections run deep with both Lovell and the Skeen team.
Paul and Logan Skeen are Cameron’s father and brother, respectively, and bring combined experience of nearly six decades in growing onions. And Lovell, with more than 30 years in onion sales, launched her career in 1986 working with Jerry and Steve Baker, managing partners in Baker & Murakami and owners of the former Baker Packing, and over the years she has established scores of long-lasting relationships with customers in all market segments.
Cameron Skeen said the level of experience and skills each of the individuals brings to the team is exceptional, with the three “new” faces among the most respected in their fields.
“My father is a fifth-generation farmer and second-generation onion grower, which makes Logan and myself sixth generation farmers and third generation in onions. My Dad started farming in 1973 and has been a key figure in the onion industry since then. Logan officially started farming in 2012 after he graduated from Utah State U. with a degree in Ag Business.
He noted that the Skeens came onboard following the retirement of some of the original grower members who had purchased Dave Murakami’s shares six years ago. The addition of Paul and Logan as vested owners ensures a continuation and an increase of high quality onions in the program, Cameron said, and he added, “With the next generation of onion growers firmly in place, we have the potential to expand on that in the future.”
Paul and Logan Skeen grow yellow, red and white onions in all sizes. Cameron Skeen said, “Aside from their highly regarded growing program, there are some other major benefits to their combined operation that we are excited to have. The land they farm is some of the most productive and sought-after land in the area. The fertile soils and senior water rights have allowed for dedicated production year over year no matter what situation the rest of the Treasure Valley might have with water or other issues.”
Additionally, he said, the two men’s land base and water rights allow them to start the season early so “they can be ready with new crop onions right out of the gate.”
He continued, “On the flip side of early onions, they also have state-of-the-art, on-farm refrigerated storages that allow them to store onions until our Idaho-E. Oregon marketing window has closed in late April or early May. We couldn’t ask for a more turnkey operation to join the fold.”
The synergy comes full circle with the return of Lovell to the site of her first stint in onions, Skeen said.
“She hit the ground running when she came through the door, and we are looking forward to her making major contributions to our growth as a company. We are absolutely pumped to have Trish as part of our team!” he added.
Lovell’s solid reputation as a top onion sales pro began when the Baker father/son team of Jerry and Steve Baker was with DeBruyn Produce in Ontario. Trish began at the site where three shipping companies – DeBruyn, Baker Packing and now Baker & Murakami – have since called home, and she said of her return to that patch of real estate, “It’s like coming home. Onions is where it all began.”
Over her 30-plus years in onions, Lovell has worked for a number of onion shippers, including Curry & Co. in western Oregon and Agri-Pack in Washington. She commented, “I am excited to be back with Jerry and Steve on the sales desk and with the rest of the Baker & Murakami team, keeping our focus on exemplary customer service and the highest quality. Baker & Murakami is progressive, innovative and continually improving.”
Cameron Skeen agreed, saying, “The former Murakami Produce had made the transition from traditional custom packer to a more vertically integrated model six years ago, and that was taken to a new level with the merger of Baker Packing and Murakami Produce in 2017. Communication has been paramount in making it all work, and with the volume of onions we pack and the acreage we account for, it takes a tremendous amount of coordination and organization to keep everyone moving in the right direction.”
He continued, “By accomplishing the coordination and organization, however, any barriers that may have existed historically between the custom packer and the growers have been leveled. As vested business partners, we are all in the same boat together, and it’s in everyone’s best interest that we are all successfully moving in the same direction.”
He said continual dialogue among the partners is “an extremely synergistic event… and I believe we have tremendous potential to realize as we continue moving forward as a cohesive group.”
For more information, contact Baker & Murakami Produce at 541-889-9663.