The B.C. Fruit Growers Association will have a new face at the helm when it holds its 129th annual convention next weekend in Kelowna.
After four years as president, longtime industry advocate Fred Steele is hanging up his pruning shears and retiring from orcharding.
“We changed the governance in the BCFGA to a two-year term, and I really wasn’t prepared to do another two,” Steele said of his decision to step down.
“And, when you think about it, I’ve been (involved in advocacy) for more than a decade. I’ve been involved in the B.C. Agriculture Council, the Canadian Horticulture Council, the Apple Working Group of Canada and was Joe Sardinha’s vice-president.
“We’re trying to bring younger people into the industry by allowing family members to represent the farm. And, I think it’s time to pass the torch on to the next generation and see where they want to take it.”
Steele has seen a lot of changes in the industry during the past two decades. The biggest, he says is the renewal of a “can-do” attitude.
“Farmers have always had an entrepreneurial spirit, and they’ve found it again. If you look at the open fields of four or five years ago, we’re seeing trees being planted in them again. New varieties and different commodities,” he said.
“Everybody says we can do this or that, but you have to do something. The long-term replant was a true key to this. I knew this and Norm Letnick the (former) agriculture minister knew this. We had to get a replant that was more than five years so we could depend on a consistency that the program was going to be there. We managed to do that, we got seven years.”
The BCFGA membership will decide whether current vice-president Pinder Dhaliwal or Jeet Dukhia will sit in the president’s chair for the next two years.
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