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James Calissi is the new face of modern agriculture in the Central Okanagan.
Yes, he grows cherry and apple trees, which we all recognize as traditional agriculture.
But, he also manages the intellectual property of patents and trademarks for commercialization of new fruit varieties for the University of Guelph and growers in Spain, Chile, the US and New Zealand.
"Agriculture is changing," said Calissi of East Kelowna's Calissi Farms.
"In the Okanagan it used to be mainly apples. Now, there are more cherries and wine grapes. And there's the intellectual property of agriculture, which I'm into."
Calissi understanding the old and new of agriculture and agriculture being one of the cornerstones of the Valley's economy, makes him the perfect new chairman of the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission advisory board.
"Of course, I'm talking about the agriculture issues on the advisory board's agenda for 2023 because it's something I'm familiar with," said Calissi.
"We recognize we have to protect farmland and that agriculture and the rest of the economy and society can co-exist in the modern world. Agriculture can be noisy and smelly, but it's necessary and an important part of the economy and people need to recognize that."
Calissi also mentioned labour shortages as one of the major issues facing agriculture.
"We wouldn't be able to function without workers from off-shore, mostly Mexico and Jamaica," he said.
"It's important we continue to bring them in to help and that we can house them."
Other, broader issues the advisory board will be addressing in 2023 are big ones that are affecting all jurisdictions -- worker shortage, talent attraction and retention, inflation, a looming recession and unaffordability of housing, daycare, car and home heating fuel and groceries.
The advisory board is made up of a whopping 45 members.
"That's a big board," admitted Calissi.
"But I understand why it's as big as it is. We have regional businesspeople from a wide variety of sectors and industries as well as regional government representatives. It's what we need with our scope."
The 2023 Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission advisory board:
- chairman: James Calissi, Calissi Farms
- vice-chair (and 2024 chair): Janice Larson, Muse & Effect Consulting
- past-chair: Mike Checkley, QHR Technologies
- Sharon Hughes-Geekie, JumpStart Communications
- Paula Quinn, KF Aerospace
Industry sector directors
- Angela Nagy, GreenStep Solutions
- Gavin Benson, Lloyd Sadd Insurance Brokers
- Nikki Csek, Csek Creative
- Dr. Maurice Blitz, Interior Health
- Brian Wall, Anodyne Electronics
- Brad Buchanan, Avalon Event Rentals
- Jeremy Dawn, Mission Group
- Ryan Malcolm, Emil Anderson Properties/Dilworth Homes
- Kray Mitchell, Good Commerce Agency
- Tony Stewart, Quails' Gate Winery
- Rich Threlfall, Troika Developments
- Noel Wentworth, Wentworth Music
- Jill White, Waterplay Solutions
Local government appointees
- Myles Bruns, BC Ministry of Jobs, Economic Development and Innovation
- Ruth Sulentich, District of Lake Country
- Bob Evans, City of Kelowna
- Mandi Carroll, Westbank First Nation
- Paul Gipps, City of West Kelowna
- Cory Labrecque, District of Peachland
Partner organization appointees
- Brea Lake, Accelerate Okanagan
- Shauna Harper, WeBC
- Alex Goodhew, Accelerate Okanagan
- Steve North, Business Development Bank
- Larry Widmer, Central Okanagan Community Futures
- Laurel Douglas, Economic Trust of Southern Interior
- Julie Pringle, Greater Westside Board of Trade
- Dan Rogers, Kelowna Chamber of Commerce
- Pamela Pearson, Kelowna Chamber of Commerce
- Geoff Ritchie, Kelowna International Airport
- Adriana Preston, Peachland Chamber of Commerce
- Laura Thurnheer, Okanagan College
- Chris Lewis, Tourism Kelowna
- Nicole Udzenija, UBCO
- Phil Barker, UBCO
Local government staff liaison
- Coun. Ron Cannan, Central Okanagan Regional District
- Mayor Blair Ireland, District of Lake Country
- Coun. Dave Collins, District of Peachland
- Coun. Jason Friesen, City of West Kelowna
- Coun. Andrea Alexander, Westbank First Nation
- Coun. Luke Stack, City of Kelowna