Agri-Pak Packaging Ltd: The Dhaliwal's family story
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 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 - a highly efficient method to encourage greater production across its 180 acres, Agri-pak Packaging Ltd. was purchased in 2014 and with a new state of the art facility it has doubled in size to house new apple, cherry, and soft fruit lines, Sunny Valley Fruit continues to pack and market Okanagan fruit, and they have partnered with Cawston Cold Storage to pack organics.
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 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 Dhaliwal Farms. Beginning as a small 10-acre Oliver farm, they utilized their agricultural knowledge from Northern India and began their orchard business.
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 increase his ability 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, “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.” Sunny said. Ganta missed wrestling and the community in India, but 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 other growers. “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.
Agri-pak Packaging Ltd, in particular, is a sizable 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 shares his plans to double the Agri-Pak packaging Ltd. facility by increasing the structure’s size, to include a controlled environment allowing for year-round marketing and distribution. In the orchard, they limit burning and practice mulching to return organic ingredients to the earth while continuing to investigate green packaging alternatives which rival the industry-wise plastic.
Article courtesy of South Okanagan Immigrant Community Services "Community Champions" Project