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decided to step down, he asked if Van Roechoudt would run in his place. “I was open to it because I have some ideas,” she says. As well, she says she had been volunteering with the B.C. Institute of Agrologists, and plans to step down so she has more time, but she believes community service is important.

She also serves on the agriculture advisory committee in Lake Country. Since her election in January she has been posted to head up the board’s labour committee, and says she would like to see a forum for labour: an internet job posting board, similar to those available to grape growers and cherry growers on their association websites.

She is convinced digital solutions are the most efficient, and has been using the web for labour postings herself.

Although she notes that people who live in the valley have a tendency not to think in terms of orchard work, she’d like to see the industry go after people who would like to work a season of intense labour, in order to pursue other interests for the rest of the year.

She notes workers could go from

pruning, to thinning to picking cherries, then picking other fruit, and amass six months of solid, steady work, but she says it’s finding those people that is the problem. “Perhaps we could partner with a ski resort or something,” she muses. She feels strongly that the industry needs some “outside the box solutions” to its current problems. For instance, she says there should be marketing solutions to using the less-popular sizes of apples, and those that don’t have ideal colour, whether that’s in producing other products with them, or simply marketing them in more-creative ways.

“Even when you work to grow only the peak sizes, you’re gong to also produce some of the larger and smaller sizes,” she notes. South of the border, Stemilt Growers is a company that does fruit gift baskets of fruit, sliced fruit and other value-added business that increases the revenue stream, she notes.

Stemilt is a family-owned tree fruit company in Washington State that produces apples, cherries and pears,

as well as a variety of summer fruit such as peaches and nectarines, totalling more than 20 million boxes annually.

Van Roechoudt emphasizes that she feels it important the relatively-small industry in B.C. works together. “This industry was built on cooperation. We’re small so it’s a waste of energy not to work together to move forward.

“It’s critically important there be less fragmentation in our industry,” she says.

The decline in numbers of growers is of concern for not only the co- operative packinghouse, but also the BCFGA, since its membership is based on the co-op’s membership, she adds.

Van Roechoudt feels some of the losses may be due to growers leaving the industry, but she’s concerned that some have been lost simply because they no longer ship through the co- op.

“Losses mean our ability to mount programs is affected,” she notes, and those programs help everyone in the industry, however they ship their fruit.

British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Fall 2011


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