Joe Sardinha

Joe Sardinha

British Columbia orchardist Joe Sardinha will be remembered for his efforts to unify the tree fruit industry both within the province and across Canada.

Sardinha, president of the British Columbia Fruit Growers’ Association from 2005 to 2011, died August 31 of a heart attack. He was 52.

Glen Lucas, general manager of the association, said Sardinha was passionate about the future of the industry and improving its performance both in terms of product quality and financial returns. He strongly supported efforts to consolidate the packing industry, and helped move forward the merger of four packing houses into the Okanagan Tree Fruit Cooperative.

“That’s something that our industry had been talking about for 50 years,” Lucas said. “During his seven years as president of the association what he was probably most concerned with was building bridges with other organizations and keeping the co-op on a positive track.”

Sardinha helped develop national and international strategies for the Canadian tree fruit industry. Within the province, he fostered a close working relationship with organizations representing other agricultural sectors, Lucas said. “I think that came about because Joe really had this view that if all of agriculture does well, that means that tree fruits will be better off as well. If particular commodities were having a tough time, typically Joe was one of the first to get behind and support them in their drive for getting some response from government.”

As well as working with the BCFGA, Sardinha served on the B.C. Agriculture Council and was a director of the Canadian Horticulture Council. He represented British Columbia on the Canadian Federation of Labour’s national council, and served on the province’s Growing Forward Advisory Committee and the Risk Management Advisory Committee.

Sardinha was born in Portugal. His family emigrated to British Columbia when he was four years old. His father, Jack, bought an orchard in Summerland after working in the fruit industry for more than a decade. Joe and his wife, Julie, went into partnership with his parents and leased additional orchards in Summerland.

Sam DeMaria, a grower at Kelowna, British Columbia, said Sardinha had an ability to hold the industry together. “And I hope we can continue with that goal.”