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New bursary honours leading orchardist's legacy

Joe Sardina served as president of the B.C. Fruit Growers
Joe Sardina served as president of the B.C. Fruit Growers' Association for six year and passed away in the summer of 2012.
— image credit: Judie Steeves

A $1000 annual award will provide a lasting memorial for long-time BC Fruit Growers' Association president and his impact on agriculture

A bursary set up in Joe Sardinha's name will focus on the pursuit of a fruitful occupation—higher education—and the business of growing fruit itself.

Sardinha was an orchardist who served on the BC Fruit Growers' Association executive for over a decade, including six years as president. He passed away last summer, at the age of 52, after suffering a heart attack, and his family is hoping to further his legacy with the award.

"Joe gave so much to the industry and I felt that he still had a lot to give," said Julie Sardinha, who met Joe in their first month at university.

The couple dropped out of school almost immediately, Joe because he belonged on the farm and Julie to follow him and subsequently build their family. Education was nonetheless extremely important in the Sardinha home, as evidenced by their children.

In his address to the BCFGA annual general meeting this weekend, Kelowna-Lake Country MP Ron Cannan told those gathered that the Sardinhas' daughter returned to the farm to assist her mother this year and is pursuing her doctorate through the University of California, Berkeley. She specializes in lost and endangered indigenous languages, her mother confirmed, noting their son has two bachelors degrees and a teaching certificate.

The BGFGA has two other bursaries offered through the association and the backbone those awards will be used in adjudicating this one, although Sardinha's really hones in on the winner's connection to the industry.

Applicants must be closely related to a BCFGA member, will be required to submit an essay on an aspect of the orchard sector and their family's contributions to the association will be considered.

"There's people who served for years and years as delegates to the convention and it takes time away from their lives and their orchards and their families. I just wanted to recognize that. It's a sacrifice. It's a family sacrifice," Julie said in an interview with CBC Daybreak South as the convention opened.

The bursary will be given annually and the $1000 will come directly from the Sardinha family.

"A friend of mine told me that as long as we don't forget Joe, or as long as he's remembered, he'll never be completely gone," Julie said.

The Sardinhas received the Golden Apple Award from the BCFGA for the bumper crop they produced in 2012.

It was the first year Joe Sardinha dedicated his efforts entirely to his orchard, having stepped away from the BCFGA leadership, and it resulted in 490 bins of apples on 11 acres, nine planted. The Sardinhas were among the top five growers in 10 different varieties. They focus on Ambrosia, Gala, Golden Delicious, Pink Lady and they are grafting their Granny Smiths over to Pink Lady.

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