Toronto, ON – November 24, 2023 – The Ontario produce industry’s hardworking individuals were honoured on Friday night at the Ontario Produce Marketing Association’s (OPMA) 32nd Annual Gala and Awards Ceremony. The OPMA annual awards are presented to individuals or organizations whose efforts have made a significant impact on the Ontario produce industry. Close to 400 people from across the industry gathered in person at the Bellvue Manor in Vaughan.
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. It would be nearly impossible to walk through many retailers produce sections and not see Leah’s efforts come to life. From impulse purchase driving displays to introducing new items Leah has been a shining star. 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. His contributions to produce and his drive to increase consumers consumption of Wonderful’s items has helped change purchase behaviour in Ontario. He has advocated tirelessly for produce and for featuring it outside of the product department.
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 their “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 program provides migrant workers the opportunity to tell their stories and experiences working on Ontario fruit and vegetable farms. The MTMW program has become an invaluable tool to the produce sector as a source of reliable information that can be shared with those not familiar with the vital SAWP and TFW programs. It continues to garner attention from government and other sectors who are interested in developing similar programs.
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 Joe Da Silva from Ippolito Produce for his over 40 years of service to the produce industry. Joe’s passion for the industry is evident through his mentorship of the next generation and the ten years he served as President of the Toronto Wholesale Produce Association where he helped shape the future of the industry. His success comes from his ability to prioritize human connection and he is recognized for his honesty and integrity.
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.
About the Ontario Produce Marketing Association: The Ontario Produce Marketing Association is a member-funded, not for profit organization whose mission is to connect people and information from field to plate.
For more information contact:
Emilia De Sousa
Communications and Member Services Manager
416 519 9390 ext. 237