Feb 20, 2020
Canada Organic Trade Association celebrates leaders at gala

The Canada Organic Trade Association (COTA) recently toasted heroes who are advancing the Canadian organic movement and industry.

COTA’s Organic Leadership awards were presented during the 4th annual Organic Leadership Awards Gala held in Vancouver, BC on Wednesday, February 19, according to a press release from the association.

Canada has $6.6 billion in annual sales and is the 6th largest organic market in the world, according to COTA. Winners of the leadership award include organic pioneers who have devoted their lives to reforming Canada’s food system, organic farmers who are carving the path for more farmers to enter the organic chain, organic retailers who have trailblazed bringing organic to market and organic innovators who are ensuring that organic continues its path forward.

Congratulations to this year’s award recipients:

  • Organic Champion of the Year – J. Wallace Hamm
  • Leadership in Organic Science – Dr. Ralph Martin
  • Organic Retailer of the Year – Whole Foods Market
  • Organic Supplier of the Year – Fruit d’Or
  • Organic Innovator of the Year – Riverside Natural Foods
  • Organic Farmer of the Year – The Green Organic Dutchman

Wallace Hamm of Pro-Cert Organic Systems Ltd. was awarded the title of Organic Champion – a testament to his unending dedication to organic.

“Of my more than 50 years in agriculture, as both a producer and agriculture professional, these last 30 years of involvement with the organic movement have been the most fulfilling and enjoyable,” Hamm said. “I am humbled that the movement has chosen to recognize my service in protecting the integrity of the organic claim.”

Dr. Ralph Martin, award winner in the leadership in organic science category, highlighted the importance of continued development in the organic sector. Martin has been a driving force in all things organic since his creation of the first organic science cluster in 2009.

In the release, Martin spoke of how “in the organic sector we do not have to accept either ‘science’ or ‘organic.’ There are plenty of scientific questions and subsequent research that can be applied to organic systems. We can have both ‘science’ and ‘organic,’ and we do.”

“It’s an honor to be recognized as Canada Organic Trade Association’s Organic Retailer of the Year for bringing high-quality organic products to market for more than 40 years, and our leadership as the first U.S. ‘Certified Organic’ national retailer in North America – a designation we’ve held since 2003 – and now as a retailer certified to the Canadian Organic Standards with stores in both Ontario and British Columbia,” Ann Marie Hourigan of Whole Foods Market said in a release.

Fruit d’Or was honored by COTA as Organic Supplier of the Year. It is the leading organic cranberry and blueberry processor and producer in Canada and recently launched their brand Patience Fruit & Co.

“We are very proud to have won the title of Organic Supplier of the year and we feel it’s a good way to highlight Fruit d’Or’s 20th birthday!” Fruit d’Or’s Marie-Michèle Le Moine said in a press release. “Fruit d’Or has practiced organic farming since its beginnings, and we look forward to continue developing this beautiful industry in a sustainable way.”

Riverside Natural Foods was awarded Innovator of the Year, highlighting that snacking can be healthy and full of vitamins. Riverside Natural Foods name brand “Made Good” has been working tirelessly since 2014 to produce food that doesn’t just taste good but does good.

“Expanding the market for organic products is a key part of our company’s mission,” Nima Fotovat, president of the company said in the release. “We are very happy to accept this award and further promote the growth of organics in Canada.”

The Green Organic Dutchman (TGOD), a leading producer of premium certified organic cannabis, has proven to be a sustainability champion, taking home the award for organic farming at last night’s awards.

“TGOD was born from a bold vision, to become the global leader in certified organic cannabis,” Brian Athaide, chief executive officer of TGOD, said in the release. “Receiving this award validates the hard work and dedication of the team at TGOD and speaks to our promise of making life better for our customers and the communities where we do business. We would like to thank COTA for recognizing our efforts and commitment to sustainable organic cultivation.”

Full biographies of all of this year’s award recipients can be found online.

Ultimately, the evening proved to be filled with celebration, a delicious organic menu, and an air of optimism for what the rest of 2020 has in store for the organic sector.

“The outstanding work being done by these industry leaders in the last year has propelled organic into the spotlight – something that is invaluable to the sector as a whole as we continue to strive for social change,” said Tia Loftsgard, executive director of the Canada Organic Trade Association. “A collective voice is key to continue strengthening and sustaining the organic movement in Canada.”

The Canada Organic Trade Association’s Annual Organic Leadership Awards were established in 2016. Awardees are nominated by their peers and chosen unanimously by the Organic Trade Association. A summary of past honourees can be found here.

The Organic Gala and Leadership Awards are organized by the Canada Organic Trade Association, aided by the generous support of Horizon Distributors and SIAL Expo Canada. The Canada Organic Trade Association is a membership-based association for the organic industry in Canada: representing growers, processors, certifiers, provincial farmers’ associations, importers, exporters, retailers and others throughout the organic value chain.

Above, from the left are David Bernard-Perron (TGOD), J. Wallace Hamm (Pro-Cert Organic Systems Ltd.), Alli Bearinger (accepting on behalf of Dr. Ralph Martin), Tia Loftsgard (Executive Director at COTA), Nima Fotovat (Riverside Natural Foods), Marie-Michele Le Moine (Fruit d’Or), Elaine Arrowsmith (Whole Foods Market). Photo: The Canada Organic Trade Association


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