Unsure, he went back to agriculture school, but says he has no regrets about achieving a double education. “Education always benefits you. You don’t lose it and it can’t be stolen. There are always benefits to critical thinking,” he comments. The family immigrated to B.C. in 1993, soon moving from Vancouver to the Okanagan Valley. where they found a solid agricultural industry. Before focusing on the grape and wine sector, he and the family worked in the packinghouse in Osoyoos, and in an orchard in Kelowna before settling down in Lakeview Heights and beginning work in 1996 at Summerhill, where Sidhu says he worked long hours, but enjoyed the job.
He also took viticulture courses while there and says “I can fix things and I have a good attitude. I believe by saying ‘No’ you’ve failed before you even try,” he explains. It is that positive attitude and willingness to help others that have paid him back many times, he says. He believes that becoming angry because a pump breaks or something else happens is just a waste of energy. Instead, that energy should be channelled into tackling the problem.
Sidhu also believes that more people can do a better job, and so the whole family works together. He has three brothers and one sister and they operate out of one bank account, controlled by his older brother Jarnail.
The family owns three companies: a trucking firm in the Lower Mainland, an insurance agency and an accounting business.
“Family is a good foundation. I was raised to think in terms of ‘ours’ and ‘us’, not ‘I’ ” he explains. Their mother also lives at Kalala and “she can override decisions,” he comments with a grin, adding, “We never argue. We talk over everything and we respect each other. “We’re already involving the next generation, who work on the farms in summer and on holidays,” he notes. In addition to the West Kelowna and Oliver wineries and vineyards, the Sidhus have a five-acre vineyard in the South Okanagan, and they buy grapes from a Naramata vineyard as well as a small vineyard in the Mission area of Kelowna.
Going organic seriously? By Judie Steeves T
here are several accredited certifying bodies in British Columbia for growers interested in becoming organic. All use the Canadian Organic Standards as their minimum.
Some permit the farmer to display the Canadian organic logo and others just B.C.’s check mark logo for certified organic farms and products. Those certified organic by an ISO certification body must comply with federal regulations and may display the Canadian logo as well as the check mark, while those certified under a regional program may only display the check mark. To ship certified organic products out of the province, the ISO certification is needed.
But, the basic steps to certification are the same.
First, an application form must be completed and submitted with fees to whichever certifying body is selected. That application is reviewed and a Verification Officer is assigned to do a site inspection and submit a report. If necessary, a follow-up inspection is done until any issues are resolved and a certificate is issued.
Certification includes a minimum 12-month transition period for any soil- based farming operation, to ensure all prohibited substances or practices no longer affect produce.
The length of the transition period can be upward to 36 months, depending on the land use history. There’s a shorter period for processing.
For details of input restrictions, the application and inspection process, go to the website at: www.certifiedorganic.bc.ca/cb/certification.php
They grow a wide variety of grapes, with cabernet sauvignon, syrah, merlot, pinot noir, chardonnay, lemberger, malbec and sauvignon blanc in the south and zweigelt, pinot gris, gewurztraminer, riesling, pinot noir, merlot, viognier and blaufrankisch in the Central Okanagan. The vines range in age from five years to 30 years old.
Next year, with some partners, they plan to plant a vineyard on 94 acres along Highway 3 in the Similkameen, which will include varieties such as cabernet franc and riesling. It’s bare land which has never been cultivated and they plan to establish a winery and an eco-tourism operation there.
It just makes sense to diversify.
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British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Spring 2010
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