13 Steele steps down as fruit growers’ president

A decade on BCFGA executive comes to an end in February

by TOM WALKER KELOWNA – Fred Steele’s

orchard looks like a war zone. Piles of uprooted apple trees dot the muddy blocks. Old irrigation lines form twisted rows awaiting their trip to the dump. Stacks of posts and wire line the road up to the farmhouse, and behind, a huge hoe works to knock down the ancient barn and pull out the straggling pine trees.

Steele, outgoing president of the BC Fruit Growers Association (BCFGA), has sold his 10-acre farm and become part of the wave of change that’s sweeping the BC orchard industry. The grower who bought the property is now repeating a process that’s become common across the Okanagan, Similkameen and Creston valleys in recent years. Blocks of Golden Delicious, Spartan, McIntosh and Gala trees are being replanted with a more productive high-density cherry orchard. Steele confesses that he

didn’t spend time upgrading his orchard so the renovation it’s experiencing doesn’t surprise him. The fact that cherries, not apples, are the fruit of choice makes sense, too.

Researchers at the Summerland Research and

Development Centre have released new varieties that give growers a range of options and extend cherry season into September. The industry now has an edge on growers in Washington. “You combine that with elevation plantings up the sides of the Okanagan Valley and growers now have cherries ready for market from mid-June some years until the first week of September.” The replanting of older,

less-profitable apple varieties like Golden Delicious with high-density rows of the popular and more profitable Ambrosia has also helped to fuel growth and pushed the industry’s annual economic impact to $776 million. “The industry has increased its contribution to the local economy by a quarter of a billion dollars,” says Steele. “We went through some 32 years of decline and now we’ve seen three years of growth.”

Media to McIntoshes Steele bought his orchard

20 years ago as he eased out of the media business. “I didn’t plan to be here that long but then I got caught up in this thing called agri-politics,” he quips. “I ran for vice-president in 2007 when Joe Sardinha was

Calling it quits. BCFGA president Fred Steele isn’t running for re-election in February. Instead, he’s sold the farm where his apple orchard is being ripped out and replaced with high-density cherries. TOM WALKER PHOTO

president, and won.” Steele would like his leadership remembered for the positive tone he has sought to cultivate within the industry. “When I was first elected as

president in 2014, we faced an uncertain future as an industry,” he says. “We created a positive attitude and that’s an environment where you can flourish.”

“People say I had a great

run ... Well, I had a great run for one reason,” Steele maintains as he downplays his role in making it happen. “We provided a catalyst of optimism and people did it themselves,” he says. The “we” is important, Steele adds.

“Glen Lucas is a great general manager to work with and Pinder Dhaliwal as vice- president and all the other members of the executive makes this a great team.” The province’s long-

standing commitment to the See REPLANT on next page o

Under the Terms of the Bylaws of the Association

Members are Directed to Take Notice of the 129th Annual General Meeting of the


February 15-16, 2018 At the COAST CAPRI HOTEL, KELOWNA

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2018 BUSINESS SESSION (1 PM–5 PM) • Annual Report of the Executive; • Financial statements, budget, and any Special Resolutions; • Annual reports of subsidiaries: • BC Research and Development Orchard Ltd. • Summerland Varieties Corporation;


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• Guest speakers and reports of industry organizations and companies; • Committee reports and resolutions for delegate consideration.

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 2018 POLICY SESSION (8:30 AM–1:30 PM) • Guest speakers and reports of industry organizations & companies; • Special reports; • Committee reports and resolutions for delegate consideration; • Election of the BCFGA Executive at 1:30 pm

SOCIAL - A Social will be held on Friday evening. All members and government and industry organization representatives are invited to attend the social from 6 – 8 pm on Thursday, February 15 at the Coast Capri Hotel, Kelowna.

All members and industry and government representatives welcome. Lunch provided on Saturday.

BC FRUIT GROWERS’ ASSOCIATION office: 880 Vaughan Avenue, Kelowna, BC V1Y 7E4 250-762-5226 (T) (250) 861-9089 (F)

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