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Need for unity never more obvious Up Front

By Bryden Winsby T

his has been a turbulent year for the B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association, and for the Okanagan Tree Fruit Cooperative, as the industry struggles to

meet the challenges of an increasingly tough marketplace. Although this issue features a piece by Associate Editor Judie Steeves on the significant changes that have taken place with the OTFC, you won’t find any coverage of the goings-on at the BCFGA executive level. Much of the turbulence has involved the presidency of

Kirpal Boparai, who declined nomination to seek a second term, then resigned in November. Unlike the mainstream media, we’re not in a position to provide an up-to-date situational on this story, which has seen new developments take place every couple of weeks. As you read this, there is about a month to go before the

BCFGA’s annual general meeting, where, one hopes, there will be some settling of differences and a renewed determination to make sure the industry’s future is one of ascension, not decline, and that membership in the association has value. The need for unity and cohesion is not lost on Christine

Dendy, president of the Okanagan-Kootenay Cherry Growers’ Association, who has a guest column in this issue. She too is issuing a call for a collective approach, by veterans as well as newbies. There is strength in numbers, but not if those numbers

are fractious or indifferent. On the upside of things, this has been a very good year in

terms of the quality and quantity of fruit produced in both orchards and vineyards. A vintage year for prices? Well, not so much. Which is

why Dave and Melissa Dobernigg, featured in our cover story, are among growers who are getting seriously involved in the making and marketing of apple cider as a way to generate better returns from unprofitable varieties. As you’ll see, there’s much more to their approach than brewing up batches of juice in the basement. New apple varieties have been a plus for growers in

recent years, and the latest was unveiled to the marketplace recently under the name Salish. Contributing writer Susan McIver brings you the story of its development and its role in the Okanagan Plant Improvement Corporation’s ‘Born in B.C. Bred in the Okanagan’ promotional campaign. Whether for promotion, marketing, research or replants,

financial help for growers has long been in demand, but short in supply. BCFGA general manager Glen Lucas thinks there might be room for some monetary benefits from the Columbia River Treaty, which is due to expire in 2014. Whether the treaty is renegotiated or carries on indefinitely remains to be seen, but as Lucas explains, our American cousins have done very well by it, somewhat at the expense of orchardists on this side of the 49th parallel. The provincial government, which has taken

considerable heat for the low budgetary priority it gives to agriculture, should certainly give the possibility of “treaty money” a serious look. As B.C. cabinet positions go, agriculture is a major one,

but not exactly a plum, if you’ll pardon the pun. There have been eight ag ministers during the past decade, some of them quite qualified, others ... well...

4 British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Winter 2012-13 The latest is Norm Letnick, one of three

Kelowna-area MLAs who have held the post since 2009. Letnick and his predecessors have all touted agriculture’s tremendous importance to the economic well-being of the province, yet the ministry remains chronically underfunded in comparison to many others in the country. Not surprisingly, the new minister is putting on a brave and optimistic face. As you’ll learn through an interview for

this issue, Letnick hopes to put his business background to productive use. His enthusiasm could well be tempered by the current political climate, however. He and his fellow B.C. Liberals are struggling mightily in opinion polls with the spring election looming ever larger. The word “sustainability” is among my least favourites,

vague and overused as it gets applied to a widening variety of economic, social and environmental matters. There are occasions when its meaning is very specific, however. Sustainability has been very much on the mind of our Gary Strachan in recent years as it applies to the wine industry, as you’ll see from his contributions in these pages. Much food for thought.

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