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

Nature Trust of B.C. purchases property in South Okanagan

Parcel will be added to White Lake biodiversity ranch

Popular Similkameen winery grows

Corcelettes winery outside Keremeos has bought more land and is expanding

Update: Warrant issued for Penticton man facing manslaughter charges

Sylvain Modeste Demers is wanted on a warrant

Debt retired on SOEC construction cost

A decade after it opened, loans for constructing the South Okanagan Events Centre have been paid

Water samples good, Hedley awaits drinking water A-OK

Water woes in Hedley had some residents questioning the communication plan of the HID earlier this week

Omar Khadr wants changes to bail conditions

‘My life is held in suspension’, says the former Guantanamo Bay detainee

Sissons scores OT winner as Predators beat Canucks 4-3

VIDEO: Vancouver battles back to earn single point in Nashville

Lions announce seven members of coaching staff not coming back for 2019

The operational moves come two days after the Lions announced DeVone Claybrooks as the team’s new head coach

Missing man last seen in Shuswap

Red Deer RCMP would like public’s help locating elderly man with dementia last observed in Sicamous

Scholarship smooths road ahead for Okanagan College transfer student

27 students from Okanagan College received awards from the Irving K. Barber Society

$12K awarded to atheist family who oppose Christmas, Hanukkah in B.C. classroom

Gary Mangel,May Yasue said holidays, Remembrance Day and Valentine’s Day not appropriate in preschool

Aboriginal poet faces backlash for calling out NHL-themed totem poles

Rebecca Thomas says she received backlash for asking a drugstore chain to remove NHL merchandise

No plans yet for free WiFi on BC Transit buses

BC Transit says they are monitoring the roll-out of free WiFi on Translink vehicles

Some Kotex tampons recalled in Canada and U.S.

In some cases, tampon users sought medical attention “to remove tampon pieces left in the body.”

Most Read