Two pioneers of the western produce industry passed away over the weekend, just one day apart.
Mr. Ed Baloian, patriarch of Baloian Farms of Fresno, Calif., a grower of peppers and mixed vegetables, died Saturday at the age of 92. He had suffered health problems over the last few years but had been at the office every day until just a few weeks before his death, the company said.
Mr. Robert Victor “Bob” Antle, an industry pioneer who was the patriarch of the Antle family and a founding member of Tanimura & Antle Inc., died Sunday at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital with his family at his side. He was 78.
A second-generation farmer and the son of an Armenian immigrant, from an early age Mr. Baloian worked side-by-side with his father growing and distributing fruit and vegetables in the Fresno area.
Like many of his generation, Mr. Baloian served his country during World War II. He returned home to Fresno to continue growing the first family business, the Charles Baloian Co., a wholesale distribution company he owned with his father and brother. With a vision for greater representation in the farming industry, in 1965 Mr. Baloian created Pam-Pak Distributors to represent grower products in the U.S. and Canada. At the same time, he started growing more products of his own. In 1986, he and his son Tim started Baloian Farms and together have grown it into one of the largest pepper and vegetable production companies on the West Coast.
According to the company’s statement following his death, “Ed’s passion for growing and distributing fresh fruits and vegetables was only eclipsed by his love of family and his service to the Lord.”
He was an active member of both the People’s Church in Fresno and the Northwest Fresno Rotary.
Tim Baloian, current president of Baloian Farms, said, “My dad had an enthusiasm for life and a respect for people that he instilled in us as a family and within our business. Our business is an extension of his passion—the idea of doing something good and meaningful that helps others is what farming is about. We grow healthy food that helps people. I am so grateful for the opportunity to work side-by-side with a man rooted in faith that showed me through his actions the importance of honesty, hard work and generosity.”
A past employee said, “If I could use one word to describe Ed, it would be genuine. This humble man did things because he cared. To see his beaming smile when he shared his history, his beliefs or his family was contagious. He was a man who looked you in the eye, told you what he thought and would always stand by your side if you asked.”
Visitation will be held at Whitehurst, Sullivan, Burns & Blair Funeral Home in Fresno from 4-7 p.m. Friday. A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at G.L. Johnson Chapel at the People’s Church. Memorials may be made to the Fresno Rescue Mission, P.O. Box 1422, Fresno CA 93716-1422; or Seeds in His Garden, P.O. Box 919, Seaside CA 93955.
Mr. Antle was born Nov. 10, 1935, in Watsonville, Calif., to Lester “Bud” and Delores “Polly” Antle. While a student in 1949, he joined his father, Bud, and grandfather, Lester Antle, at the family’s lettuce harvest operation. He worked as a loader and met the Tanimura family, a friendship that eventually led to Tanimura & Antle Inc.’s creation.
After graduating from Stanford, his first job was directing the company’s carrot business, Antle Carrots. He then moved into sales and marketing, eventually becoming the general sales manager.
In the mid-1960s, he relocated to the East Coast to develop House of Bud, a wholesaler of fruits and vegetables. Under his leadership, House of Bud opened facilities in New York, Boston, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Brussels, Belgium.
In 1972, after his father Bud died at age 58, Mr. Antle became CEO of all Antle entities. After six years, he merged the Bud Antle companies with Castle & Cooke Inc. (now Dole Food Co.) and joined its senior management. He served on the Castle & Cooke board of directors until 1982.
After that, Mr. Antle, along with his sons Rick and Mike, formed Tanimura & Antle with George Tanimura and his brothers Charlie, Johnny, Tommy and Bobby, and nephews Gary and Keith.
This partnership united the Antles’ strong packing and shipping expertise with the Tanimuras’ growing expertise. Mr. Antle and George Tanimura became co-chairmen of the board when the partnership was formalized.
“Mr. Antle was a great leader and mentor to so many in the company and industry. The success of Tanimura & Antle can be attributed to his appreciation for the company’s employees and his belief in their abilities,” the company said.
Mr. Antle is credited with implementing several major produce industry initiatives, such as wrapping fresh vegetables in the field (1960), developing distribution centers for the introduction of wrapped lettuce and other source packaged fruits and vegetables (1965) and producing crop transplants (1970).
More recently, he focused on immigration reform and the Monterey County and California water crises.
Among his many awards, Mr. Antle recently received the Grower-Shipper Association’s E.E. “Gene” Harden Award for Lifetime Achievement in Central Coast Agriculture, which celebrated his contributions to agriculture as well as his extensive and longtime generosity to many philanthropic and educational institutions and endeavors throughout the Monterey County community.
One of his proudest accomplishments was the establishment of the Tanimura & Antle Family Memorial Library at California State University-Monterey Bay.
Mr. Antle is survived by his wife, Sue Antle; his brother, Kenneth Antle; his sons, Rick L. (Tonya) Antle and Mike V. (Cass) Antle; and his twin daughters, Kathy (Vince Ciolino) Della-Rose and Karen (Joseph) Hebl; 21 grandchildren; and a great-grandson.
A celebration of life will be held Monday at the California State University Monterey Bay World Theater. Donations may be made to: The Bob Antle Scholarship Fund, c/o CSUMB 100 Campus Center, Seaside CA 93955; The Salvation Army of Monterey, 1491 Contra Costa St., Seaside CA 93955; or the Panetta Institute for Public Policy, 100 Campus Center, Building 86E, CSUMB, Seaside CA 93955.
In the feature photo at top are Mr. Ed Baloian and Mr. Bob Antle.