A Kenora entrepreneur and a Far North First Nation community are among the inaugural winners of the Rural Ontario Leaders Awards.
The initiative is a new program of the Ontario government designed to recognize innovative rural leaders who have boosted economic development while improving the quality of life for its residents.
Among the winners is Freshwater Cuisine, owned by Chef Jay Barnard, a Kenora-based company that produces fresh fish products. Barnard turns locally caught fish into value-added products like popcorn pickerel cheeks, freshwater whitefish cakes, and wild caught Northern pike cakes.
In December, Barnard received a Leaders in Innovation Award from the province.
Also named is Eabametoong First Nation, a First Nation community located 360 kilometres north of Thunder Bay. It has turned a small community garden into Fort Hope Farm, a seven-acre farm that creates jobs and provides fresh, healthy food to the community, while blending traditional knowledge and conventional agricultural practices.
Other winners are Dr. Gezahgn Wordofa of Stratfod, the founder and director of the Multicultural Association of Perth-Huron; Grant Sparling of Blyth, the vice-president and general manager of Cowbell Brewing Company; and The HUB (operated by the non-profit organization, New Vision Unlimited), which is a co-working centre that supports entrepreneurship and social innovation in the Muskoka community.
The Rural Ontario Leaders Awards will be offered every two years and presented at the Rural Ontario Summit.
It’s open to eligible individuals, communities and organizations, which can be self-nominated or nominated by an individual or group.