Incumbent growers unseated on co-op board

Newcomers unseat long-time directors on the board of the Okanagan Tree Fruit Co-operative at Tuesday's annual general meeting.

Fresh harvested apples wait boxed and ready for the packing house.

Two long-time co-op board members were overturned in their bids for re-election to the board of directors of the Okanagan Tree Fruit Co-operative at its annual general meeting in Peachland Tuesday afternoon.

Sam DiMaria, representing growers in the northern half of the valley was voted out in favour of newcomer Kamlesh Parmar. Both are Kelowna growers.

Jack Machial of Oliver was outvoted by Gordon Hahn of Oliver to represent growers in the southern half of the valley in the election.

Both DiMaria and Machial had served on the board since 2009 and they were the only two board members up for re-election.

Members of the board will elect a president and two vice-presidents from those elected, in the coming week.

It was estimated 200 to 300 members attended.

The United Nations has declared 2012 the International Year of co-operatives with the comment that co-operatives drive the economy, are resilient to the global economic crisis, respond to social change and are serious, successful businesses creating jobs.

Although the co-op board did not open the meeting to news media, following the agm, co-op member Denise MacDonald of Summerland said one of the big issues discussed was the change in grower contracts with the co-op this year and whether growers should be permitted to sell their commercial varieties of apples and pears anywhere they wish, or whether they should have to commit to shipping through the co-op.

As well, she said there were many calls for change, without specifics. “We’re all struggling to adapt to a changing world. Some of us realize changes will take some time, but we also realize the status quo is not a possibility,” she commented.

Modernization and consolidation is needed, but she said she’s concerned that some want to toss out the baby with the bathwater.

“The co-op has a plan that involves the sale of some of its properties in order to help finance modernization of others. Yet, some growers don’t seem prepared to make a commitment. We must work together for the future,” she said.

Kelowna grower and former board member Glenn Cross said the co-op board is split, which makes it really difficult for it to move forward.

“I have concerns about where the co-op is heading, but I hope things will work out,” he added.

Summerland grower Lorraine Bennest said there was encouraging news about sales and marketing of this year’s fruit by the packinghouse, and prices are up for apples. However, she said she was disappointed that a number of growers didn’t seem to pay attention to the business side of the meeting, but instead were distracting.

“It’s a business we’re running,” she commented.

At last year’s agm, two of three incumbents were also voted out of office, with Karmjit Gill of Kelowna elected to represent the north. Kirpal Boparai and Colin Pritchard, both of Kelowna, tied for the second seat and the board later elected Pritchard.

At that time, board chairman Jim Elliot of Oyama did not run for re-election.

Representing growers in the south, Ron Vollo of Summerland was re-elected, but Darshan Jassar of Penticton unseated incumbent Claude Moreira on the board.

The other members of the board include Rob Dawson of Cawston, currently serving as president, vice-president Malcolm Mitchell of Winfield, Gill, Philip Patara of Kelowna, Pritchard, Nirmal Dhaliwal of Osoyoos, Jassar and Vollo.

At the 2010 agm, Glenn Cross of Kelowna was defeated by Patara and Joe Hart of Naramata was defeated by Dhaliwal.

The OTFC and its marketing arm, B.C. Tree Fruits, are owned by 580 farm families from throughout the Okanagan and Similkameen.

They sort, pack, market and distribute a variety of B.C.-grown fruits, including apples, pears, cherries, peaches, apricots, prune plums and blueberries.

The head office is in Kelowna.



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