Fred Steele holds up certificate of community service presented to him by Kelowna-Lake Country MP Stephen Fuhr on behalf of the federal government. Photo: Barry Gerding/Black Press

Outgoing BCFGA president passes torch of leadership

Fred Steele optimistic about future for Okanagan fruit growing industry

The outgoing president of the BC Fruit Growers Association offered some advice as he passed the torch of leadership to a new generation of orchardists Friday.

Speaking at the BCFGA annual general meeting in Kelowna, Fred Steele said the renewed wave of optimism in the tree fruit industry the past four years is the result of farmers telling their story through local media to draw positive attention to their industry and presenting a united advocacy front in dealing with different levels of government.

Related: Weather factors impact 2017 fruit crop

“Four years ago we faced an uncertain future. But we learned how to speak smarter, not louder, and to create a sense of optimism about what lies ahead,” Steele said.

“Today we are seeing hayfields being replaced with fruit trees. Farmers are starting to see a potential for the future.”

Steele said the most rewarding aspect of the last decade he has spent representing Okanagan tree fruit growers was in finding solutions to problems.

“We did not succeed every time in addressing issues but it was never because we didn’t try 100 per cent of the time.

“But change is about renewal, and it’s time for me to step aside and pass on the torch for others to lead our industry that will be here for our grand-children and great-grandchildren.”

Steele cited several reasons for his optimism for the future of fruit farming—growth of cherry sales, the growing number of cider producers, apple crops being replanted, engaging in agri-tourism, greater vision for diversification and value-added opportunities and doors being opened for a new generation of growers.

“Optimism has risen above the din of self-doubt,” he said.

A fruit grower told Steele he brought back civility and respect to the BCFGA.

“You will be missed,” said the grower.

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