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Stephen Henry – Baker City – Part 2 of 2

“After living in Tokyo for a year and completing my assignment, I moved back to Micron’s corporate headquarters in Boise and was able to participate in several more corporate deals with companies in Taiwan, China, and Japan. I left Micron in 2019 and joined Lamb Weston to work in their strategy and corporate development group. We acquired two companies in Australia and I got to spend a month in Melbourne, Australia. The culture there was very laid back and accessible to foreigners. Melbourne is like a melting pot of different cultures. The food was amazing and you could get the best Indian and Asian food there. I also was able to experience some Australian rules football games. The next project I worked on was a joint venture in Argentina, where I had the opportunity to visit Buenos Aires to negotiate and finalize the deal. Unfortunately, this was shortly before COVID so we ended up having to do a lot of the integration remotely which limited the amount of time I got to spend in Argentina. Just prior to the COVID lock downs, I was fortunate to travel to Mexico City, Melbourne, and New Zealand, but after February 2020, there was no more traveling. My expectation is that level of business travel isn’t coming back any time soon as companies have gotten used to conducting business remotely.

So over the last year I was deciding what I wanted to do and we started talking about coming back home to Baker. My grandma’s dad ran the garbage company in Baker from the early 1960s. Then he passed away and my grandpa Byron took over from him in 1970. My dad ended up running the company after him and now my older brother owns it. Baker Sanitary has been owned and operated by my family for four generations and I grew up working there in summers, so it’s something I’ve always been close to. I was living in downtown Boise with my own family, which we enjoyed for about ten years, but as our kids grew older (now eight and ten), we really wanted the opportunity to raise them in a more rural area. We purchased some property about eight miles out of town. We now have some goats and chickens and are thinking about working some type of livestock. I’m currently working with my brother at Baker Sanitary as well as doing some remote consulting with a couple of companies in the Bay Area.

I’m also involved in a bison ranch operation that has around 300 head of bison off Pocahontas road. One of our interests is in seeing if we can utilize composting and other bio-stimulants to improve soil conditions of the ranch land. It is still on the experimental side, but there is a growing sector of sustainable farming to try to improve soil conditions that will drive more deeply rooted grass that can thrive in drier climates. We see this as necessary as we continue to have hotter and drier summers. One of the reasons for coming back to Baker was to participate directly in the sustainable ranching activities. Because we own the land, we can have a 30-to-40-year time horizon to improve the soil see how much grass yield can improve over time. We expect to have some challenges along the way but think it’s important to try a different approach to reverse current trends we are seeing of lower yields and margins for ranchers.

When I graduated high school most everybody left either to go to college or get a job somewhere else. Only now are people starting to reflect on their quality of life and coming back. We have friends in Boise who are in their 30s or early 40s with kids that are thinking of moving to a rural area and they find Baker really attractive. Remote work has helped with employment options, but finding a job or starting a business here has historically been pretty difficult. How can we build industry, but maintain quality life in Baker, without disrupting what makes Baker attractive? It’s a challenging question.”