VANDERHOOF – Former Burnaby Lake Greenhouses general manager Bert Miles died on July 28. He was 80.
Miles, an accountant by profession, was noted as much for his ability to shake up the status quo as he was for his financial expertise and service to the agriculture community.
Born in Vancouver and raised in Langley, Miles didn’t farm himself. But in 1981, after positions at Pacific Brewers Distributor, Royal City Canning and other BC food processors, he joined Burnaby Lake Greenhouses. He worked alongside owners the van der Ende family as controller and general manager until his retirement in 2009.
During the 1980s, the company’s sales increased seven-fold and Miles’ business acumen was key in overseeing the relocation and expansion of the business to a new 2 million-square-foot production facility, the most advanced and automated at the time in North America.
Herb van der Ende, who initially hired Miles, also credits him with spearheading the development of a retirement community on their former greenhouse site in Surrey, pushing through the rezoning and helping with financing.
“Bert made it possible to do a lot of things,” says van der Ende, who has long retired from his roles as president and chairman of the board, but remains a director. “Without Bert that wouldn’t have happened. It was a big project.”
Miles made a lasting impression on van der Ende, serving as a great sounding board and becoming very close to the family through the years.
“Bert had a great overall view of the industry because his background wasn’t specifically agriculture, it was always the financial side,” he says. “He was my advisor all the years when I was in a senior position in the company and made it possible for me to do a lot of things. He was more than a business GM. I could always count on him there.”
Retirement from Burnaby Lake didn’t stop Miles, but it did give him more time to pursue other interests, including consulting and agriculture service.
Through H.A. Miles Ag Consulting, he specialized in farm business management and strategic planning. He served four years as a commissioner with the Agricultural Land Commission, chaired the Investment Agriculture Foundation of BC (IAF) and the BC Horticultural Council, and served as a director of the BC Agricultural Research & Development Corp. (ARDCorp) and the Small- Scale Food Processors Association.
Fellow IAF directors Alistair Johnston and current chair Jack DeWit recall working with Miles and becoming friends.
“He was a breath of fresh air,” says Johnston, a former food manufacturer and now a consultant to the sector. “He didn’t shirk away from offering a balanced and considered opinion. I had huge respect for what he brought to the table.”
“He was definitely very passionate about agriculture,” adds DeWit. “He was very supportive of all of agriculture in BC whether small lot or the bigger farms. He knew the business and he wanted to make a difference. He was stubborn in his own way. If he believed in something he pushed it.”
Miles spent 12 years on the IAF board, originally representing the post-farmgate sector and returning after a five-year hiatus to represent the greenhouse, floriculture and nursery sectors.
His commitment to community service extended beyond agriculture. Miles chaired Surrey Metro Savings Credit Union and the Certified Management Accountants Society of BC. He also served as a director of Credit Union Central of BC.
Miles was predeceased by his first wife Pauline in 2011, following 46 years of marriage. He is survived by his two sons, Bradford (Pat) and David (Raquel), four grandchildren and his second wife, Bette Jean Crews, whom he married in 2018.
David Miles described his father as “a pretty amazing person.”
“[He wasn’t] just a great dad and awesome grandfather dedicated to family and friends but also an important thread in the fabric of the community and organizations where he served,” he says.