Column: Humble orchardist Sardinha remembered

Black Press reporter honours Joe Sardinha, who passed away suddenly on the weekend

Orchardist Joe Sardinha is remembered as a humble man.

Joe Sardinha was a humble guy. He considered himself, above all else, an orchardist.

The son of Portuguese immigrants, he grew up on the family farm in Summerland and took over the 11 acres when he was ready to develop a career for himself 33 years ago.

“I have put a lot of effort into this orchard. When you have 11 acres, you know every tree personally,” he said during a 2012 interview.

But while Sardinha was more comfortable climbing ladders and pruning, there was far more to him than met the eye.

Sardinha, who died suddenly Saturday at the age of 52, was truly a leader and a visionary in the Okanagan’s tree fruit sector.

Over 11 years on the B.C. Fruit Growers Association executive, including seven as president, he fought tirelessly for the industry.

“I want to prove to the naysayers that the industry isn’t done. There is still an opportunity to be a success,” he said.

Sardinha was known for his smile and warm handshake, but he could be tenacious and to the point when dealing with government officials and particularly those bureaucrats who didn’t understand the economic importance of tree fruits.

He grew particularly frustrated with the shrinking budget within B.C.’s agriculture ministry.

“The province continues to lag behind other provinces in its support of agriculture,” he said.

He also had little time for retailers who sell imported fruit, often at a lower price than domestic produce.

“Retailers have to realize consumers are looking for local product. They are losing a great marketing tool,” he said.

Sardinha was a people person and it wasn’t unusual to find him surrounded by a large crowd. His personality was infectious.

He didn’t have any problems putting on a jacket and tie and hobnobbing with politicians, but he was at his best when he was one-on-one with growers walking among trees and talking shop.

In July 2009, he surveyed the damage after a torrential hail storm ripped apart entire apple crops throughout Vernon’s BX area. He wore the pain just as if it was his own.

“It’s very demoralizing. On the day it happens, you feel very lost,” he said.

Sardinha gained the respect of growers throughout the valley and his approach has been followed by Vernon’s Jeet Dukhia, who as the present BCFGA president, has defended the interest of farmers devastated by weather this summer.

There’s no question that the Okanagan’s tree fruit sector has seen better days. Even with record high prices right now, the cost of production is forcing many growers to consider their future. Foreign competition, government indifference and a consumer base focused more on price than quality are constant hurdles to overcome.

But despite the doom and gloom, Sardinha remained upbeat.

“If you don’t have any optimism, you’re putting up the white flag and the industry has been around too long to do that. Anyone interested in the industry is not prepared to surrender,” he said.

Sardinha was a genuine advocate not only for his industry but for the entire Okanagan. He will be missed.

Just Posted

Sister of cancer victim cycles across Canada to raise awareness

Her journey started on May 14 and will end in early August

Okanagan-Shuswap weather: cloudy

Environment Canada is calling for a similar day tomorrow.

Top women’s hockey player Natalie Spooner coming to the Okanagan

Natalie Spooner special guest at annual Grindstone Award Foundation charity weekend in Kelowna

Woman in hospital after being thrown off horse

She was airlifted to Kelowna General Hospital from Okanagan Falls

Update: Washed out South Okanagan road temporarily closed for assessment

A portion of Eastside Road, south of Penticton, appears to be crumbling into Skaha Lake

Rescuers finally persuade Eiffel Tower climber to come down

The official said the man was ‘under control and out of danger’ on Monday night

Update: Plan to see more smoke from South Okanagan wildfire

Richter Creek wildfire, 12 kilometres west of Osoyoos, is an estimated 400 hectares

Motorcycle deaths spike 50% since 2017

Riders were most likely fatally crash on the weekends compared with the rest of the week

Family of B.C. pilot killed in Honduras trying to ‘piece together’ tragedy

Patrick Forseth has a number of friends in the area and was loved by everyone

Justin Trudeau credits immigration for Canada’s growing tech sector

Trudeau stressed that Canada has become a major source of talent for tech all over the world

Feds launch tourism strategy designed to boost sector 25 per cent by 2025

The fund is supposed to back experiences that show off Canada’s strengths

Column: A solar pioneer in the Okanagan rides among us

This Summerland octogenarian has been producing his own electrical energy for more than 20 years

Should B.C. already be implementing province-wide fire bans?

A petition is calling for B.C. Wildfire Service to issue a ban to reduce risk of human caused wildfires

Most Read