Sardar Didar Singh Bains, a founder and a leader of Sikh institutions in North America, passed away at 83. 

Late Sardar was an influential philanthropist, prominent peach farmer, strong political influencer, and founder of several Sikh institutions and festivals in Yuba City, USA. He has been a globally renowned Punjabi American from California. He started from scratch, but only with his consistent hard work, perseverance, and faith in Sikhi, he rose in prominence and stature in every facet of his life. His ability and will to give back and empower others made Didar the embodiment of the American Dream. 

Early Years

Didar Singh Bains was born in the family of Sardar Gurpal Singh Bains and Bibi Amar Kaur on 10th January 1939 (though the officially recorded date is 20th April 1938) at Nangal Khurd, a small village of Hoshiarpur District, in Punjab province of British India. On the invitation of his uncle Kartar Ram Bains, a resident of Yuba City since the 1920s, Gurpal Singh left for the USA to better his family’s economic situation. Didar was only ten years old at that time. On reaching Yuba city in 1948, Gurpal Singh began working with orchards in Northern California. 

By the time Didar Singh turned fourteen, he had to do farming to support his family. Later, on his father’s invitation, he reached Yuba city on 13th March 1958. On arriving in the United States with only eight dollars in his pocket, Didar started working as a laborer. 

In the beginning, he worked for Roy Noreen and Steve Nelson farmers in their orchards at hourly wages of $ 0.75. Didar tirelessly worked to help his parents’ reunion; in 1962, his mother, Bibi Amar Kaur Bains, and his younger brother arrived in the USA. 

Despite a minimal education, Sardar Bains quickly rose to be a foreman due to his hard work and persistence. Relying on his keen business acumen, he began purchasing land in 1962, then added to it continuously. By 1978 he became the most prominent peach farmer in California and worldwide. As a result, he became widely known as the “Peach King.” After his massive success in California, USA, he aimed to attain a similar feat in Canada. Herein, he made his first land purchase in 1978 outside Vancouver, British Columbia. After that, he also continued to buy and develop his agricultural lands in Canada.

With his vast knowledge and experience in farming, Didar not only diversified into cranberries but became the second-largest grower of cranberries for Ocean Spray, an agricultural cooperative. However, he did not even stop there; instead continued to accumulate and develop large expanses of black currants, blueberries, and raspberries, in Washington State and British Columbia. Ultimately he succeeded in having farming operations in thirteen counties within California. In Yuba City, his farming operation expanded to include walnuts, prunes, grapes, and almonds. 

Since the 1960s, Bains has sponsored his family members and several other families to come to Yuba City. Thus, he became known as the “Immigration Machine” among the Sikh people. In addition, Didar helped new immigrants to be financially independent by allowing them to start businesses or become professionals such as doctors, engineers, etc. His ability and will to give back and empower others made Didar the embodiment of the American Dream. Starting from nothing but hard work, perseverance, and faith, he rose in stature and prominence in every facet of his life.

On 21st June 1964, Didar Singh Bains married Santi Poonian, the daughter of Pritam Singh Poonian. He and his wife Santi raised three children—Ajit, Diljit, and Karmdeep. In addition to helping in his family’s peach farming, he contributed to growing Punjabi Community in Yuba City in manifold ways, e.g., doing community service in the local Gurudwara and volunteering in various community affairs and celebrations. 

Business and Development

Didar exhibited great skill in building a world-class diversified farming operation. He was also highly successful in several non-farming business ventures, such as farmland conversions for high-density residential, industrial and commercial land uses. In 1992, he successfully struck a deal with Sam Walton to bring Sam’s Club and Walmart to Yuba City. In 1993 he purchased Harker Packing Company. All these deals and projects had favorable impacts on the local community. 

With the expansion of local municipalities, Bains helped to build up the necessary infrastructure in these areas. For instance, he helped develop entire towns by donating land for structures such as water tanks and other essentialities. With a motive to help fellow immigrants, he pioneered establishing the Khalsa Credit Union in 1990. Ever committed to community welfare, he took a keen interest in developing the Yuba City Market Place in 2009 by helping to establish Home Depot, Michael’s, and other similar stores. 

Community Leadership  

Despite his extensive farming and business interests, Didar Singh had taken a keen interest in preserving the Punjabi culture and strengthening the Sikh communities.  He often served the community by volunteering, providing leadership, and offering financial help when needed. In 1967, he volunteered to collect donations from all over the state of California to establish the Sikh Gurdwara in Yuba City, which celebrated its groundbreaking in 1969. He served as the President of the first Sikh temple, Stockton Gurdwara, in the United States, during 1965-1968. He did many such terms as President of the Gurdwara in the coming years. 

In 1980, Didar Singh Bains established the Nagar Kirtan tradition (Annual Sikh Parade) in Yuba City to celebrate the first installation of the Sikh holy scripture, Guru Granth Sahib. Being one of the largest South Asian festivals outside India, over 100,000 Sikhs participate in this celebration annually.  To bind and further nurture two Cultural identities - one American and the other Punjabi, of his fellow beings, he created the American Punjab Corporation in 1970. 

In 1982 Didar Singh Bains received Khalsa baptism from Jathedar of the Akal Takhat Giani Ajnoha Sahib. In 1983, he was bestowed with the “Bhai Sahib” title by Sri Akal Takhat, Amritsar, India. In the aftermath of Operation Blue Star, Didar Singh Bains founded the World Sikh Organization in 1984 to fight human rights violations in India. He also served as the head of North American Akali Dal, a political party. In 1985, Didar Singh was instrumental in establishing World Kabbadi Federation and became its founding chairman. In addition, he served on the World Sikh Council.

Moreover, he played a critical role in founding and funding Sikh institutions and festivals in Yuba City and globally. As an influential and exceptional philanthropist in the South Asian diaspora, he wielded substantial political influence in Sacramento, Washington, D.C., New Delhi, and Chandigarh.  In 2010 he was honored with the Panth Rattan award by Sri Akal Takhat, Amritsar, in recognition of his lifetime work for the Sikh community

Political  Acumen

Recognizing that fellow citizens’ plight could only be improved through political recognition, he undertook to forge his way into U.S. politics. Consequently, in 1974, he was elected to the Board of Directors of the California Peach Canning Association. Then, during the economic downturn, he worked with Washington, DC, to promote peaches onto Americans’ menus, thereby saving several farmers from going bankrupt. He established the Bains Foundation, a charitable organization, in 1980 to serve his fellow citizens. In 1981, he was chosen as a lifetime member of the Republican Inner Circle under Ronald Reagan and a member of the Presidential Round Table. As a widely known Sikh leader, he worked closely with renowned political leaders on several economic and agricultural issues. 

As a repercussion of the 11th September 2001 terrorist attacks, Sikh Americans became the target of hate crimes. Didar Singh took the initiative to organize a meeting with the then President of the USA, George W. Bush. The meeting was followed by a press conference in which  President Bush proclaimed that Sikhs are Americans first and that none should fear them or discriminate against them. 

In a rampage at a Sikh Temple near Milwaukee on 5th August 2012, six members of the Oak Creek Temple congregation were murdered, and Lt. Brian Murphy, Wisconsin police officer of the Oak Creek Police Department, was shot 15 times. In September 2012, Didar Bains and his friend Dr. Balwinder S. Malhi jointly donated $100,000 to the welfare of Lt. Brian Murphy’s family. This and other similar acts of compassion and generosity by Didar Singh helped positively change the perception of Americans about Sikhs. 

In 2014, Governor Jerry Brown honored Didar Singh for his outstanding contributions to enriching the state and nation with his culture, work ethic, charity, and financial assistance.


Didar Singh Bains has been a generous person, devoted to community service. Since the 1980s, he has contributed to diverse aspects of the Sikh community in Yuba City and the world. For instance, he not only donated land to build up the first Sikh Gurudwara in Yuba City but contributed similarly to multiple Sikh Gurudwaras (situated in El Sobrante, Live Oak, Caruthers, Freemont, and many other places globally). His contributions to the global Sikh community include donating 16 acres of land for building up the Nanak Sar Gurdwara in Richmond, British Columbia, and another 709 acres for the construction of Nanak Sar Gurdwara in Edmonton, Canada. In addition, he donated 13.85 acres of land to Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhik Committee in Yuba City to house a printing press for the Sri Guru Granth Sahib.

Moreover, he financially helped to set up a museum in India during the anniversary celebration of the birth of Khalsa. In addition, he was instrumental in establishing Khalsa schools in Yuba City, USA, and Vancouver, Canada. He donated $2 million to one of the Khalsa schools in memory of his mother. Moreover, he sponsored hundreds of weddings for economically deprived families, helping young couples to start well their married life. He contributed money to expand the old Freemont Hospital in Yuba City and the Rideout Emergency Hospital in Marysville, California.  In 2016, he contributed to the campaign for the Rideout Regional Medical Center Tower to fulfill the medical needs of the local community. 


Didar Singh Bains will always be remembered for his humility, faithfulness, generosity, and dedication to the uplift of the community and country. Didar Singh’s legacy will include revolutionizing California’s agriculture, being an undeterred trailblazer in farming and philanthropy, his level-headedness in all situations, and his relentless desire to help others. The innate qualities that led to his extraordinary achievements were his self-discipline, unwavering commitment to the cause, and not be deterred by naysayers.

Authors: On the right Dr Bhai Harbhans Lal, President Academy of Guru Granth Studies and Devinder Pal Singh Director of The Center for Understanding Sikhism 

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