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L-R: Alison Robertson, Deanna VanderZaag and Ben Murray
L-R: Alison Robertson, Deanna VanderZaag and Ben Murray
November 27, 2023

The Ontario produce industry’s hardworking individuals were honoured at the Ontario Produce Marketing Association’s (OPMA) 32nd Annual Gala and Awards Ceremony on November 24. The OPMA annual awards are presented to individuals or organizations whose efforts have made a significant impact on the Ontario produce industry.


The OPMA Fresh Award, presented to an individual who demonstrates a fervent determination to improve the quality, distribution or consumption of fruits and vegetables marketed within or outside of Ontario during 2023, was awarded to Leah Hardy, from the Wonderful Company for her ability to partner with retailers to grow sustainable and larger programs.. In addition to her contributions in the workplace, Leah was also instrumental in the establishment of the OPMA’s Women’s Produce Network and continues to be a driving force in its success.


The Cory Clack-Streef Produce Person of the Year Award recognizes individuals who work tirelessly to improve the consumption of fruits and vegetables through innovation and hard work. The 2023 award went to Michael Catalano from the Wonderful Company for his lasting impact on Canadian produce retail. In 10 years, he has helped usher in incremental produce consumption and Wonderful’s brands hold the number one market share position in the categories they compete in.


The OPMA Outstanding Achievement Award, presented to an individual or organization that has demonstrated an outstanding contribution to the produce industry through their efforts to improve the quality and distribution of fruits and vegetables marketed within or outside the province of Ontario, was awarded to the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association for its “More than a Migrant Worker” (MTMW) program. This platform provides reliable information about the sector’s invaluable migrant agricultural workers and the programs that enable them to work on Ontario farms.


The OPMA Lifetime Achievement Award, presented to an individual who has dedicated many years of their lives to improving the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, was awarded to Joe Da Silva from Ippolito Produce for more than 40 years of service to the produce industry. Joe’s passion for the industry is evident through his mentorship of the next generation and the10 years he served as president of the Toronto Wholesale Produce Association where he helped shape the future of the industry.


2023 also marked the inauguration of the Women’s Produce Network Award -- a momentous initiative that celebrates and recognizes the outstanding achievements of women in the produce industry. Awarded to a woman who has contributed to the produce industry’s growth and development. This award is open to women in all departments/positions within a produce organization that is a member of the OPMA. The

award is sponsored by Wonderful Sales and the International Fresh Produce Association.


Three winners were selected by the Women’s Produce Network Committee and recognized at the OPMA Gala. They are, Jennie Coleman from Equifruit for her exceptional leadership and significant contributions to the produce industry through her dedication to Fairtrade, government policies that support agriculture workers and empowering women in business. Nadia Kobylka from Vineland Growers’ Cooperative was recognized for her leadership during the Cooperative’s unprecedented growth and her development of policies and processes to modernize VGC’s sales, admin, food safety, inventory management, grower relations and finance/accounting.


 The final winner and recipient of the grand prize was awarded to Zanelle Hough from Nature Fresh Farms. Zanelle is recognized for her dedication to mentoring her team, her keen eye for innovation evident through her successful product line extensions in Nature Fresh’s snacking tomato category and the work she’s done to improve overall sales results for the company.


This year’s Women’s Produce Network grand prize is generously sponsored by the International Fresh Produce Association and Wonderful Sales. It includes free registration to the 2024 IFPA Women’s Fresh Perspective Conference in Orlando, flights and accommodations, valued at $8,000.


Source:  Ontario Produce Marketing Association November 24, 2023 news release



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Submitted by Karen Davidson on 27 November 2023