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Consistency — and progress — key to Haun Packing success

As he continues to rely on personal responses and one-on-one communications, Herb Haun with Haun Packing in Weiser, ID, said working to “create our own presence” while maintaining consistency in service is the formula he follows for marketing and sales.

And at the same time this longtime produce man uses his tried-and-true methods, he acknowledges a youthful influence from the newest generation of the Haun family to join the company, which for decades has grown, packed and shipped onions in Idaho-Eastern Oregon.

Haun is vice president/sales manager of Haun Packing, and his brother, Fred, is company president and the primary grower. The siblings are third generation of Hauns in the Treasure Valley, and it is Fred’s son, Brent — along with a couple of younger growers who are aligned with the operation – who bring both Millennial perspective and vision to today’s table.

“It’s really fun working with them,” Herb Haun said earlier this year. “They do have a different way of looking at things.”

Certainly life has changed since 1912, “when Grandpa Haun, who came from Russia, started farming with his family in Scotts Bluff, NE,” Haun said.

In 1939 the Hauns moved to Idaho, and in 1941 the patriarch bought land in Oregon. Onions became part of the Haun tradition shortly after World War II ended. Herb Haun Sr., who had worked with the Department of Ag, started working at Parsons Packing, an onion house in Idaho.

Herb Jr. and Fred stayed the course with onions, starting Haun Onion farming operation in 1990. In 1999 the Haun brothers and grower Stuart Syme launched Haun Packing.

The company’s website, haunpacking.com, provides information on varieties, season, contacts and history, noting that the mission of Haun Packing is “to be in control of all aspects of the onions that you are purchasing, … from the seed, to growing, through harvesting and finally to packing.”

Farming technology continues to evolve, and now the grower base, including Fred, have about 80 percent of the total acreage under drip irrigation that can be monitored by mobile device. All applications are done through the drip, and Haun said what’s not irrigated by that method is handled by furrow.

The youngest Haun and his grower contemporaries lend a fresh take on business, but Haun said, “We have brand recognition by creating our own presence.” That has been accomplished by trade advertising and by sticking to some basic principles.

“We work closely with our customers, giving them what they need in order to sell to their customers. We answer to our customers’ needs.”

He said it works. “I still have some retail and foodservice customers I’ve been working with since the early 1980s,” he said.

That kind of loyalty is important, particularly in an industry that sees the capriciousness of Mother Nature.

Like most of the shippers in the region, Haun Packing saws damage from weather in early 2017. The winter, which spawned the infamous Snowmageddon series of storms that temporarily paralyzed the Treasure Valley, caused Haun to lose shipping time, and Herb Haun said, “We lost close to a week, and we were completely down for three or four days getting the snow off our buildings. The onions couldn’t be moved when it was too cold.

Haun Packing didn’t lose any product, but it did lose two buildings entirely and saw damage to another two that prompted full replacement. Three were storages, Herb Haun said.

“We also lost a few thousand bins, and we’re building our own using components this year,” he added.

Haun said the rebuild is increasing the total square footage by 30 percent in one building that went down, and capacity will be increased from 4 million to 6 million pounds. It is also equipped with more efficient ventilation and temperature control.

And will exceed the county building code requirements for snow load and pitch.

Planting in 2017 began later than normal due to the intensity and duration of cold, wet weather, and Haun said the harvest was expected to be at least 10 days later as well.

“But it could be better quality going into storage,” he said, adding that the main harvest might not come until the third week of September.

As he was planning ahead for the season, commenting that labor “is going to be interesting,” Haun said the company is also making long-term plans for additional upgrades to the packing facility, including computerization and mechanization beyond what is currently used.

About the labor, he said, “I see a younger generation that doesn’t want to get up in the morning and show up for work, and I blame the parents for that.” Some of his labor force now consists of individuals who’ve been with him for a number of years, but as those workers reach retirement age, the need for automation will be heightened.

Haun Packing and Haun Onions are Primus-certified and also certified GAP and GHP through the USDA. With Laura Molina heading up food safety, the company works to stay current with protocol necessary to produce its yellow, red and white Spanish Sweets that are shipped mostly in 25- and 50-pound bags as well as 40-pound cartons. Foodservice is the largest market segment, 60 percent to retail’s 40 percent.

Each package can be traced back not only to Haun Packing but to the specific field, and Haun said every level of production is “on board with staying current.”