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New Manager at BC Fruit Growers Association

(Kelowna) The BC Fruit Growers’ Association (BCFGA) has hired Melissa Tesche as the new General Manager. Melissa was the General Manager of the Okanagan-Kootenay Sterile Insect Release Board (commonly known as SIR) from 2015 to present.

Tesche has experience with the Okanagan Water Basin Board and has an M .Sc., Conservation Biology from the University of British Columbia, and B. Ed., Secondary Sciences and B.Sc., Biological Sciences, from the University of Alberta, 2004.

Tesche grew up in northern Alberta, with grandparents who grew grain and canola, and aunts and uncles with cattle. After university, Tesche spent a year visiting family friends’ farms in Australia, working and travelling around the country, where she picked apples, worked on an apple line, picked cantaloupe and watermelon, worked with sheep, and worked on a tomato line.
Tesche is taking over from retiring General Manager Glen Lucas on March 4, 2024, following on Lucas’ 25-year tenure as BCFGA’s general manager. BCFGA President Peter Simonsen said, “We are very happy to welcome Melissa to the BCFGA team. It is a great advantage that past General Manager Glen Lucas has developed a transition plan, which started last March, and that Glen has agreed to support Melissa in her new role.”
Tesche noted, “While I will miss my position and colleagues at SIR, I am energized for the tasks and challenges ahead. I’m not a grower myself, but I’ve watched my family experience the joy and the heartbreak that comes with producing food. I understand the critical role that farmers play. I am excited to work for the BCFGA to make sure that the government and the public understand the importance of the Southern Interior Tree Fruit Sector as well.”

The BCFGA represents 300 tree fruit growers, with a mission of:
Helping to foster a healthy food system for the long-term prosperity of the tree fruit industry

The Agriculture Census of 2021 reports that, of the 16,302 acres of tree fruits, apples account for 48% and cherries 38% of total acreage. Cherry acreage is expanding at present, and apple acreage has contracted by 15% over the period 2020-2022, after expanding slightly from 2017 to 2019.

Okanagan tree fruit farms produce mainly cherries and apples, but also grow peaches, pears, apricots, nectarines, and prune plums. The area has a dry, hot summer climate, with relatively mild winters needed for ‘fruit-set’. The BC tree fruit sector leads the world in the development of new, late-season cherry varieties and the environmentally-friendly Sterile Insect Release Program for apples. The Similkameen Valley, adjoining the Okanagan, is the birthplace of the world-famous Ambrosia apple.

Tree Fruit sector operations and capital investments, directly and indirectly, contributed $162M to BC’s GDP in 2019, of which $98M was in contribution to labour income, and $19M was in provincial and municipal government revenues; it is also estimated that the sector sustained 2,490 jobs.