Growers talking change in Kelowna

It’s been an emotional couple of days for outgoing B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association president Joe Sardinha, after 11 years on the executive and the past seven as president, as he steps aside for someone new to take up the cause.

The 123rd annual general meeting of the BCFGA runs Thursday and Friday in Kelowna, concluding with the election of officers.

He has experienced a turbulent ride in the top job representing the province’s growers, giving orientation classes to no less than six new agriculture ministers for his industry, and trying desperately to get some assistance for an industry that’s been in a struggle for its very life.

It’s been a frustrating job which he’s grown into in those years, being open and accessible to the media; articulate and compelling in speaking to the politicians in his lobby efforts for the industry; and available to fellow growers.

It’s an industry he grew up in, stepping into the shoes of his parents, who also worked in Summerland orchards where he was raised, and it’s one that he’s seen go through some incredible changes.

From growing apples on large, spreading trees spaced far apart in the orchard, he’s seen the shift to more-densely planted, odd-shaped trees. Trees are now pruned strongly back to produce more fruit on a smaller farm footprint.

He’s also seen the introduction of all sorts of new varieties of apples—replacing the Macs and reds of the past—in an effort to lure the consumer back home from the increasing variety of exotic fruits on the grocer’s shelves.

Yet, the issues growers are discussing at their annual meeting are little changed over the years, including this year’s theme of Water: Achieving Balance and Sustainability.

Resolutions on support from local government and senior governments for the industry; affordable financial programs; crop protection; labour; and the inadequate share of the provincial budget that is alloted to agriculture are similar to those brought forward in previous years.

Two Kelowna growers have been nominated to replace Sardinha as president: vice-president Fred Steele and Kirpal Boparai.


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