Youthful commitment The B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association’s newest board
members are probably the youngest as well, yet both have deep roots in farming, that go back generations in their families. Lake Country grower Madeleine Van Roechoudt and
Kelowna grower Amarjit Lalli were elected to the eight- member board at last January’s BCFGA convention. Here, they talk about their farm operations, their ambitions for the industry and their vision for the grower association. Both see it being run in a business-like way, the same way they feel individual members’ orchards must be run to be profitable. Both would also like to see changes in the industry, but
they’re both realizing the transition to a more efficient, leaner, meaner industry is going to be a slow process.
Urban-rural divide a big concern for Lalli
By Judie Steeves I
n a sense, Amarjit Lalli is the exception in today’s orchard industry: a young person who is coming into the industry new, rather than inheriting the business from a family member.
However, he is not completely new to it, having worked for a pioneer Kelowna farm family, Stewart Brothers, from the time he was a youngster, during the summer and sometimes after school. They grew apples, pears and cherries in southeast Kelowna.
His father worked there until his death in a farming accident in 1987, just as Lalli was graduating from high school in Kelowna.
Prior to that, the family had farmed in India for generations, and in 1971 his uncle and father became the second people in their village to get a tractor to operate their 34 acres, where they grew potatoes, wheat, rice and sugar cane.
His father came to Canada in 1972 to join his sister in Kelowna, and in 1975, Lalli immigrated here at the age of six.
“I’ve always had an interest in growing things. Dad had a huge garden and I watered and hoed in it. In Grade 7 I began working at Stewart Brothers in summers,” recalls Lalli.
He would also pick after school and he’s proud of the fact that today he can pick a bin in 45 minutes when there’s a good crop.
“I learned the value of hard work.” After high school, Lalli went on to earn a diploma in business administration, but he stayed in Kelowna for family reasons and worked at places such as Canadian Tire, Western Star and Riverside Forest Products — working long hours to save money.
In 2004 he was able to purchase the 20-acre apple orchard in the Ellison area of Kelowna where he and his family now live.
At present only 10 acres are planted, with older plantings of Reds, Macs and Spartans, along with 1.5 acres of Granny Smith and 1.5 acres of Ambrosias planted four years ago. He has plans to plant the remainder of the acreage, but is currently supporting the orchard with his other
British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Fall 2011 JUDIE STEEVES Amarjit Lalli
businesses. He owns two Subway franchises in Kelowna, purchased initially with the help of family members.
However, he does most of the work in the orchard himself and is very conscious of the importance of producing high quality apples, so he can get a good return.
INDUSTRY DIRECTION Lalli says he has always been interested in politics and followed it closely all his life.
When a group of East Indian farmers offered to get him elected to the position of vice-president of the BCFGA, he turned it down because he said he wanted to be elected on his own merits, not because he’s Indian. “I want to be known as representing farmers, not Indians,” he explains. Because of his Punjabi background, he can speak the language but he doesn’t read or write it. It’s much easier for him to communicate with the large contingent of Punjabi orchardists in the BCFGA.
His industry concerns centre around
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