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New BCFGA president looks beyond tomorrow and believes fruit tree industry has bright future
The new president of the BC Fruit Growers’ Association is promoting a long-term strategy to strengthen what farmers do best.
Apple grower Fred Steele from Kelowna recently took over the helm from former president Jeet Dukhia following a February 15 election.
It was a decisive win for Steele, a former radio broadcaster. Bhupinder Dhaliwal from Oliver continues as vice-president of the association.
During his acceptance speech, Steele said the presidency does not belong to the president, but the membership.
“As a custodian of the chair I promise I will always keep that in mind,” he said.
Steele said the administration would hold more meetings to better inform the membership about what the association is doing.
“I believe as the late Joe Sardinha (past president) believed that the tree fruit industry has a meaningful future with a lot of promise if we continue to advocate for it and construct a vision for its success,” he said.
Steele said he would like to establish a relationship with the organic industry because “we must find ways to work together for the good of the tree fruit industry.”
Steele’s first order of business is to secure a meeting with the crop insurance branch to discuss areas of concern and improve relations.
Steele said they want to tweak crop insurance so that it protects growers who get caught in early storms.
Steele’s other focus is a long-term, renewable replant program that offers growers more continuity.
The president wants the association to have a written strategic plan to outline where it’s going in the next five years.
“We have to do some PR work because the media is the key voice of the general public.”
Steele ran for president because a number of people asked him to throw his hat in the ring. “I want to try to raise the profile of the organization.”
He is no stranger to the BCFGA because he served as past vice-president and worked on several boards and committees.
Steele promoted the Apple Research and Promotion Agency (ARPA), but that didn’t receive the required support from the membership.
When asked about the future of fruit growing in the region, Steele looks at it with confidence.
Growers who “put their shoulder to the wheel” and grow the right varieties should succeed
“Don’t come in underfunded,” he advised.
Steele said growers have to ensure they grow the best quality fruit and seek the best markets. They also need to educate themselves on what the BCFGA is trying to accomplish.
“If you’re not a public advocate in your own industry, you’ll get lost in the shuffle,” he said.
If you don’t want to be an advocate, at least be critical and present another point of view, he added.
Steele had some advice for new growers.
They should make sure they know what they’re getting into and read up on the latest scientific information about the industry, he said.
And for any old grower who will listen, Steele offers this: “If you’re not thinking of the future, you’ll be stuck in the past.”
Special to the Times