Kitamura chosen for top state ag post

Grant Kitamura, general manager and part owner of Baker & Murakami Produce Co. in Ontario was recently selected by Gov. Kate Brown to serve on the Oregon Board of Agriculture. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell).

ONTARIO – Grant Kitamura isn’t comfortable talking about himself.

The longtime Ontario resident and businessman would much rather talk about onions, agriculture or his family.

Yet Kitamura conceded he was pleased and honored to be selected by Gov. Kate Brown to serve on the Oregon Board of Agriculture.

The 10-member advisory committee guides the director of the state Agriculture Department on the administration of programs and the creation of state agriculture policy.

“It is a lot of responsibility,” said Kitamura.

Kitamura’s tenure begins Nov. 1 and he said he is looking forward serving on the board. His first meeting will be Nov. 27.

“I will probably learn as much as anybody,” said Kitamura. “I look forward to working with people from other parts of the state and learning about other commodities.”

Kitamura is a local fixture, born and raised in Ontario, the grandchild of Japanese immigrant parents who were interned during World War II. He graduated from Ontario High School in 1971 and earned a degree in accounting and finance from Oregon State University in 1975.

Now, he is the general manager and part owner of the onion packing firm Baker & Murakami Produce Co.

While he is understated in manner, he isn’t new to high-profile positions.

Kitamura is the president of the Idaho/Oregon Fruit and Vegetable Association and a member of the Treasure Valley Onion Association Board. He is also a member of the National Onion Association Board.

Kitamura is also a member of the executive committee of the Idaho/Oregon Marketing Order. The Marketing Order oversees regulations and research for onions grown in certain areas of Idaho and Malheur County.

He is also a past member of the then-Holy Rosary Medical Center board and a past member of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce board.

Kitamura chairs the Malheur County Development Corp., which is overseeing the creation of a multimillion-dollar rail facility north of Nyssa.

Kitamura, 64, said he believes he can make a difference.

“It is important for our county, for eastern Oregon because I hope I can help the state level understand our situation in eastern Oregon. We are much different here. It is important to have rules and regulations that don’t encumber us,” said Kitamura.

Kitamura said agriculture is one of Oregon’s biggest economic engines.

 “It’s the lifeblood. We are a natural resources state and we need to make the most of it in a responsible way,” said Kitamura.

Agriculture is also important for another reason he said.

“Everything in ag is interlinked,” he said. “With the local connections I have, I can help local people with their commodities.”

Reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.