Fruit grower garners tributes

Joe Sardinha is being remembered for his passion for the Okanagan and its signature tree fruit industry.

Joe Sardinha is being remembered for his passion for the Okanagan and its signature tree fruit industry.

Sardinha, who died Saturday at age 52, was on the B.C. Fruit Growers Association executive for 11 years, including seven as president until 2012.

“It’s a great loss to our industry,” said Jeet Dukhia, a BX orchardist and current BCFGA president.

“He had a lot of years left to give to the industry.”

A Summerland resident, Sardinha spent considerable time trying to convince governments at all levels that the tree fruit industry is worth investing in because of the significant economic returns to the valley.

He also pressured grocers and consumers to embrace Okanagan grown fruit.

“He was a tireless advocate for the industry. He never missed an opportunity to bend your ear,” said Eric Foster, Vernon-Monashee MLA.

“He was a gentleman and he identified problems and then he identified solutions. He could be a pitbull but he was always positive and I always appreciated that.”

The industry has gone through significant challenges in recent years, including low prices, international competition and a shrinking land base. However, Sardinha remained upbeat about the future.

“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 in a 2012 interview.

Dukhia believes it’s critical to maintain Sardinha’s sense of hope.

“He was really positive and you have to be positive in this industry. We’re working hard to bring the industry back. Joe always said we could do better,” said Dukhia.

A funeral service will be held Sept. 14 at 11 a.m. at Holy Child Catholic Church in Summerland.