The District of Lake Country is supporting a fruit farmer’s bid to construct housing for 40 temporary farm workers on his agricultural property.
On Tuesday council supported a non‐adhering residential use application for the project at 4340 Shanks Road, where applicant Gurjinder Sandher operates four hectares of apple orchards between April and October each year.
“All the orchard work relies on manual labour to perform the tasks such as pruning, thinning, harvesting, irrigating, maintaining irrigation systems (and) operating machinery,” his application states.
In a normal year, the window for harvesting each variety of apple is five to seven days, Sandher said.
Council’s support is contingent on a vegetative buffer being planted between the orchard and the temporary farmworker housing and another buffer between Shanks Road, the purpose being to block the view of the housing from the roadway.
Agrologist Carl Withler supported Sandher’s application in a report to council.
“I have known Gary Sandher and the Sandher’s families since 2004 and watched them grow from ‘small’ apple orchardists to large, multi-orchard, multi-crop vertically integrated businesses,” he said.
Withler added Sandher’s business is the only commercial-scale packing house in the Okanagan that stem-clips their apples to produce a higher value product.
“This attention to detail significantly slows harvest … but does produce the high quality, standardized fruit the market demands.”
Given the farm’s more labour-intensive process, Withler said the housing is necessary to ensure workers are available during key harvesting months.
The accommodations will be comprised of mobile camp trailers totalling 937 sq. metres of space for sleeping units, common areas, kitchen facilities and washrooms. The permanent structure will be located on the northeast corner of the property, which the agrologist’s report confirmed would minimize the impact to agricultural land.
Council’s endorsement of the application will be forwarded to the Agricultural Land Commission who will make the final decision.