Orchardist Joe Sardinha of Summerland, a past-president of the B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association, died suddenly Saturday night of a heart attack at the age of 52.
He was president from 2005 to 2011 and had served on the executive for four years prior to that, including in the post of vice-president with Penny Gambell of Lake Country in the top post. It was when she retired after four years as president, and 11 in total on the executive, that he moved into the top spot.
Sardinha took over during a turbulent time for growers, in an organization that had experienced a roller coaster ride of ups and downs over its 124 years.
During his time at the helm, the organization embarked on an industry strategy for the future that included an action plan of five key items.
Re-structuring of the industry, including amalgamation of the major packinghouses, was completed during his term, along with integration of the packinghouse and marketing arm, B.C. Tree Fruits.
Coordination and promotion of new varieties of tree fruits was another focus of the plan, and much of that also was carried out while he was president.
In addition to his work with the BCFGA and on his orchard, Sardinha served on the B.C. Agriculture Council; was a director of the Canadian Horticulture Council; vice-chair of the council’s apple working group; represented B.C. on the Canadian Federation of Labour national council; served on the province’s Growing Forward Advisory Committee and the provincial Risk Management Advisory committee.
Sardinha grew up in the industry, following in his father’s footsteps, after the family emigrated from Portugal when he was just four.
His family purchased its own orchard in Summerland after working in the industry for more than a decade in the Similkameen.
He met his wife Julie at university and the couple decided they wanted their own orchard, even though she didn’t have a background in farming.
They partnered with his parents and leased additional acreage in Summerland, for a total of 20 acres in orchard. The year before Sardinha was elected president, that was reduced to the 11 acres they currently farm, most of it in apples.
Current BCFGA president Jeet Dukhia said his death was totally unexpected. Everywhere he went, he said people asked about Joe, and all had respect for him.
“He loved his family, farming and the farm community. I speak for all tree fruit growers in saying we are deeply saddened by this news,” he said.
Joe was pre-deceased just two years ago by his father Jack and is survived by his wife Julie and two grown children.