Steele nominated to replace Boparai as head of growers’ group

Kelowna grower Fred Steele is the first to be nominated for president of the B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association.

Kelowna grower Fred Steele is the first to be nominated for the position of president of the B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association for the coming year.

He was nominated last week in Oliver by growers who are members of the South Okanagan-Similkameen Region, one of four regions in the Okanagan.

Incumbent Kirpal Boparai of Kelowna, who is serving his first year in the president’s position, was not nominated by the 30 or so growers who attended that meeting.

However, incumbent vice-president Jeet Dukhia of Vernon was nominated for that position again, as was former president Joe Sardinhia of Summerland, who stepped down from the executive last year after seven years as president.

Boparai’s term has been tumultuous, and has included the major packinghouse co-operative in the valley ousting him for breaking his contract and a resolution approved at the co-op annual general meeting to pressure the BCFGA to remove him from his position.

Steele said growers all must work together to solve the problems of the industry. “There’s been too much controversy and we have some big issues we need to concentrate on.”

He said the industry needs to work on a good relationship with the co-op packinghouse, B.C. Tree Fruits, governments and everyone connected to the industry.

In each of the four regions in the valley, growers meet annually to approve resolutions to go forward to the annual general meeting in January; hear the president’s report; elect regional officers and nominate delegates to the AGM and to the BCFGA executive.

Boparai did not attend the meeting, so the president’s report was presented by the vice-president.

Steele was nominated for president by three regions last year and Boparai by one.

BCFGA general manager Glen Lucas explained members can also vote to open the convention floor to nominations during the AGM, so regional nominations are just the first step in a complicated election process.

The south Okanagan growers also nominated Peter Simonsen of Naramata, Denise MacDonald of Summerland and Nirmal Dhaliwal of Oliver to the board. All are incumbent board members.

All BCFGA members may vote for president and vice-president, with one vote for each legal farm entity.

There are currently 602 members.

The Kelowna meeting for the Central Okanagan will be held Wednesday, Nov. 28, and the North Okanagan Region’s meeting is Thursday, Nov. 29.

The BCFGA convention is in Penticton this year, on Jan. 19.