ONTARIO, Ore. — Garry Bybee and Isao “Kame” Kameshige are the newest members of the Idaho-Oregon onion industry hall of fame.
Kameshige, 92, has grown onions in the region for 68 years, while Bybee, 79, has farmed onions in this area for 45 years.
They were inducted into the hall of fame Feb. 6 during the 58th annual meeting of the Idaho and Malheur County, Ore., onion growers’ associations.
Both men have served on numerous onion industry committees and boards.
“Garry and Kame are a couple of highly deserving people for this award,” said Clint Shock, director of Oregon State University’s agricultural research station near Ontario.
The southwestern Idaho and eastern Oregon onion industries are closely linked. They established a joint hall of fame in 1986.
Bybee has turned over operation of his farm in the past few years to his son, Marc, and his wife, Tamara.
“To be honored by the onion industry after 45 years is indeed an honor,” said Bybee. “It’s been a hell of a ride.”
He credited others for any success he has had during his farming career.
“I’ve seen the highs, I’ve seen the lows, I’ve seen the middle, I’ve survived and it’s because a lot of friends, a lot of business partners and a lot of growers have helped me survive through all these years,” he said.
Bybee said it’s hard for him to digest the amount of change that has taken place in the onion industry over the past five decades.
“When we first started, everything was manual,” he said. “Everything was done by hand. Now, virtually the only thing that is still done by hand is sorting. Technology is changing every day and I can’t imagine what’s going to happen in the next 45 years.”
Kameshige’s two sons, Randy and Brian, run the family farm while Kame helps taxi workers around the farm.
Randy Kameshige told Capital Press his father is “pretty low key about accolades. He just liked to do his part and help out where he could. He’s always inquisitive, always trying to learn and not afraid to try something different and always open to learning something from somebody else, too.”
The family farm has faced a lot of tough times over the decades but the key to Kame’s success has been hard work and not incurring a lot of debt, Randy Kameshige said.
“His philosophy was, stay away from debt,” he said. “He didn’t over-extend himself and when times were tough, we didn’t have a lot of debt.”
Kame started growing onions in the Ontario area in 1949 on 37 acres. His farm has grown to 700 acres today.