“Community Champions” is a media campaign led by the South Okanagan-Similkameen Local Immigration Partnership and supported by Castanet. We share stories that raise awareness about the contribution immigrants make to the community while introducing the small businesses of new Canadians.
When it comes to nutrition, Canada’s Food Guide now suggests at least half your plate be fruits & vegetables. With an ever-growing need for more produce, the Dhaliwal family’s South Okanagan-Similkameen operations help to satisfy both market and grocer’s seasonal produce needs by packing, shipping and marketing almost any fruit you can grow in the Okanagan.
To help meet the need, the family businesses practice innovation by expanding their own facilities in a number of ways. Dhaliwal Farms utilizes high density planting, which is a highly efficient method to encourage greater production across its 180 acres.
Sunny Valley Fruit has a new state of the art facility which has quadrupled in size to include new apple, cherry, and soft fruit lines and control atmosphere storage, (which keeps fruit fresh longer and allows for year-round marketing and distribution) plus they have partnered with Cawston Cold Storage to pack organics enabling them to continue to pack and market the fresh fruit of your preference.
Large-scale agricultural businesses can be difficult to establish initially and can take growers years to refine their skills and processes for maximum production. Luckily for the Dhaliwal’s, intergenerational learning, mentorship and the support of the community has kept their farms growing - in all ways - while promoting success.
Forty years ago, when the Banta ‘Ganta’ Singh Dhaliwal (Sunny’s grandpa) and his wife Punjab Kaur immigrated to Canada with their sons seeking better opportunities and to be reunited with their family, they started MBJ Orchards - named after their three sons Mohinder, Balwinder, and Joginder. Beginning as a small 10-acre Oliver farm, they utilized their agricultural knowledge from Northern India and began their orchard business on a location they still farm today.
Although a cultural adjustment, the Dhaliwal’s worked with six to seven other families settling in the area to support each other and integrate. Ganta, having been previously very involved in his village in India, worked to overcome the language barrier to allow him to get involved with the local community as it grew and more social events were held.
When asked what Ganta missed the most about India, Sunny said, “My grandpa used to be a professional wrestler in India, and he missed that because [at that time] there wasn’t much in the Okanagan for wrestling.” Although Ganta missed wrestling and the community in India, Sunny shared that he was able to make yearly visits until his passing in 2000.
Honoring Ganta’s legacy, the Dhaliwal’s continue to be community minded and always open to helping new immigrants and other growers get started.
“We’re integrated, we’re helping other growers in the area” Sunny shared. “We help any grower that wants to come in [and] we welcome them in, see what kind of opportunity we have and if we can help, we get them onto the grower list and we pack, ship, and market for them.”
By maintaining a supply of quality fresh fruit and by creating seasonal opportunities at their facilities, the Dhaliwal family and their businesses have been complementing the strong agricultural industry the South Okanagan is famous for.
Sunny Valley Fruit, in particular, is a sizeable operation creating 16 seasonal full time job opportunities during peak season with the possibility of adding another 20-25 jobs (and if it’s a really good year they can add another 30-40 positions).
Looking to the future, the Dhaliwal’s prepare for the next generation of agriculture. Sunny’s family continues to investigate green packaging alternatives which rival the industry-wide plastics for Agri-Pak packaging Ltd. providing packaging needs for other packing houses from Keremeos, to Kelowna to Creston, BC. In the orchard, they continue to limit burning and practice mulching to return organic ingredients to the earth.