Summerland orchardist Julie Sardinha nominated Fred Steele from the floor Saturday, and he won the election for president of the 500-member BC Fruit Growers' Association.
"Sometimes we're a dysfunctional family, but at the end of the day fruit growers in this Valley are still always a family," Steele said shortly after being elected at the association's 125th annual general meeting at Kelowna's Delta Grand hotel.
"Diverse interests came together here today, and we put aside our differences and did what was best for the industry," he said.
Steele beat orchardist Jeet Dukhia of Vernon, the BCFGA's 2013 president, for the top job.
The association has a membership of just over 500, many of them Sikhs.
In recent years, it's been suggested that Indo-Canadian members voted for an Indo-Canadian president while those with a European background voted for the white candidate.
"This truly was a coalition vote because I was supported by Indo-Canadian and non-Indo-Canadian members," said Steele.
"I want to say a special thank-you to Jeet. He did maintain some of the things important to the association during his presidency."
However, Steele felt there was a "restlessness" among association members and that the group "needed an alternative," and so he put his name in the hat.
Steele missed the normal route to get on the ballot for president weeks ago. That would have involved being nominated at a regional meeting.
Instead, he had to secure a nomination from the convention floor on Saturday.
In order to do that, all delegates first had to vote on whether to allow nominations from the floor.
That motion passed, and then Summerland orchardist Julie Sardinha, widow of association past president Joe Sardinha, nominated Steele.
Steele won the subsequent vote.
"Fred was Joe's vice-president in 2011," said Julie.
"Fred was approached by enough people to run, so he agreed to, and I was happy to nominate him. That's what Joe would have wanted. Now Joe can rest in peace."
For 2014, Steele wants to secure long-term funding so orchardists can replant to high-density trees and have better crop insurance.
He also wants to convince more people to come into the industry and to plant empty land with apples and cherries.
Apples are the Okanagan's biggest cash crop, yet production has stagnated at about four million 42-pound boxes annually.
Awards also were handed out at the BC Fruit Growers' Association annual general meeting:
Lifetime achievement award
- the late Joe Sardinha, the Summerland orchardist and BCFGA past president who died in August 2013
Golden Apple Award
- Julie Sardinha, Summerland orchardist
Compact Orchard Award
- Tony DiMaria, Lake Country orchardist
Soft Fruit Award
- Surinder Sohal, Lake Country orchardist
- Jim Campbell, B.C. Ministry of Agriculture
Award of merit
- Ken Haddrell, Plant Improvement Corporation of the Okanagan