Oliver orchardist Pinder Dhaliwal is the new president of the BC Fruit Growers Association. Photo: Barry Gerding/Black Press

New BCFGA president well prepared for new task

Oliver orchardist Pinder Dhaliwal has been BCFGA vice-president for five years

Farm labour and water are key issues facing Okanagan fruit growers, according to the industry’s new president.

Pinder Dhaliwal was elected to succeed Fred Steele as president of the BC Fruit Growers Association at their annual general meeting in Kelowna on Friday.

Dhaliwal, an Oliver orchardist who won in a race against North Okanagan fruit grower Jeet Dukhia, said he has heard a lot of comments from fruit growers about frustration with the seasonal agriculture worker program.

“That is the biggest issue facing farmers right now. We can’t run our farms if we don’t have labour. We need to get the ball rolling on that real fast,” Dhaliwal said.

At the annual general meeting, many orchardists spoke at the forums about the bureaucratic process delaying confirmation of seasonal foreign workers who they depend on to harvest their crops.

Related: $5 million boost for Okanagan fruit growers

One example was of Services Canada doing an audit in the fall for each participating farm hiring foreign workers during that year, but farmers can’t apply for foreign farm workers the following spring if the audit has not been completed.

Kelowna-Lake Country MP Stephen Fuhr, a speaker at the annual general meeting, said he sympathized with local orchardists’ frustrations, saying he would assist individual farmers’ with their foreign farm worker applications if they are being unnecessarily delayed.

Regarding water, Dhaliwal said drought was a critical factor in the poor fruit crop last year.

“We had 99 days last year without water. Those trees need water, and without it there will be no green valley around here,” he noted.

As vice-president of the BCFGA for the past five years, Dhaliwal said he has undergone an extensive apprenticeship at the association’s executive level, valuing what he has learned working with both outgoing president Fred Steele and long-time orchardists across the valley.

Related: Outgoing BCFGA president passes leadership torch to next generation

“They have guided me and educated me on how to approach things and what we need to do to make certain policies or programs good for the grower community,” he said.

Dhaliwal, 48, grew up in Oliver, where his parents moved to and bought a fruit orchard in 1981. Today, he lives in Oliver where he looks after a 12-acre orchard, part of the family farm’s 30-plus acres, growing cherries, apples, peaches and nectarines.

Dhaliwal has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Simon Fraser University and education degree from Okanagan University College, the predecessor to what is today UBC Okanagan.

“I have put the teaching on the backburner the last couple of years,” he said, acknowledging that his generation of farmers commonly have a post-secondary education.

He said it’s surprising the diversity of people who are drawn to the agriculture industry. “Farming is in our blood. It’s a lifestyle. Our neighbour is an airline pilot and he owns a farm. We had one person who picked cherries for us who used to work for Boeing in the U.S. and there his now picking cherries and owns his own farm.”

Dhaliwal said the message of optimism hasn’t been dampened by a difficult 2017 for Okanagan fruit growers.

“Farming is like that. There are ups and downs. We are in a little bit of a downturn now because the price of apples has dropped quite a bit, but we will work with different levels of government and see how we can solve that problem and find workable solutions or other avenues we can come up with.”

Joining Dhaliwal on the BCFGA executive this year is vice-president Peter Simonsen; Okanagan North directors David Dobernigg, Karmjit Gill and Sukhdev Garaya; and South Okanagan directors Ravinder Bains, Sulchdeep Brar and David Machial.

p>To report a typo, email: edit@kelownacapnews.com.


@BarryGerding
barry.gerding@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Cannings to host Penticton town hall on Trans Mountain pipeline

A discussion about the Trans-Mountain pipeline expansion with South Okanagan-West Kootenay MP

Summerland Steam to play in two road games

Junior B team will face Nelson Leafs, Castlegar Rebels on weekend

Gingras is turning in her leash with animal control

After 28 years, the ACO is leaving her position with Penticton/Summerland Animal Control

Funding allocated to finish KVR Trail in Kaleden

The RDOS has voted to allott over $30,000 to see that portion of the trail completed

‘Hero’ kid fighting cancer helping with B.C. Children’s Hospital fundraiser

Penticton’s Wills Hodgkinson helping raise funds for B.C. Children’s Hospital

VIDEO: Neighbours fear impact of B.C. tent city residents

Greater Victoria residents opposed to campers voice concerns at provincial campground

Who’s running in Penticton’s election?

Candidates for the Penticton municipal and school board election

New evacuations ordered because of Florence flooding

Emergency managers on Friday ordered about 500 people to flee homes along the Lynches River

B.C. doctor weighs in on the kid ‘screen time’ debate

A Maple Ridge mother opens up about her children’s use of tablets, smartphones and television

B.C. councillor’s expenses being sent to the RCMP

Decision to have expenses audited and shared with RCMP taken at special meeting of council

More than 35 B.C. mayors elected without contest

No other candidates for mayor in the upcoming local election in 22 per cent of B.C. cities

Legal society poster seeks complainants against two cops on Downtown Eastside

Pivot Legal Society became aware of allegations made against the officers after a video circulated

Jury to deliberate in case of Calgary man accused of murdering woman

Curtis Healy could be convicted of first-degree murder, second-degree murder or manslaughter

Most Read