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B.C. apple growers honour late orchardist

September 9, 2013  By The Canadian Press

September 9, 2013, Summerland, BC – Friends paid their respects by rolling up their sleeves as they remembered late Okanagan orchardist Joe Sardinha by picking his Galas on Sunday.

Seven growers and pickers swarmed part of Sardinha’s orchard in Summerland, B.C., to selectively pick the ripe apples, a gradual harvest that should continue until early November. The reinforcements are rallying around his widow Julie to get the crop off and pay homage to the former leader of the B.C. Fruit Growers Association, who died of a heart attack Aug. 31.

“He was one of those guys who could make friends with anybody,” said neighbour Steve Brown. “Everyone respected him and knew he was doing a great job . . . He was respected in the community. He was a standup citizen. He was a good guy.”

About 18 people gathered Thursday on the couple’s property to handpick the apples and another work party met Sunday.

Sardinha, 52, seldom employed more than one picker to help the family at harvest time because he and Julie preferred to do it themselves. The orchard is “immaculate,” said friend Erin Carlson.

“It’s so easy to go up and down the rows and pick the apples. There’s nothing complicated about it.

“We’re colour-picking it. We’ll have to go over it three or four times over the next two weeks or so . . . I imagine we’ll need more volunteer help as apple harvest get busier.”

Sardinha became president of the BCFGA in 2005 and kept the position for seven years. He went out of his way for people doing what many considered a thankless job, Brown said.

Carlson added he was “pretty darn passionate” about agriculture.

“I don’t remember seeing Joe without a big smile on his face, even when he was getting passionate about something,” she said. “The last time I talked to him it was about . . . how we need to eat healthy food and treat our environment better. That was kinda cool.”

A memorial service is set for 11 a.m. Sept. 14 at the Church of the Holy Child, 14010 Rosedale Ave. in Summerland.

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