VANCOUVER, British Columbia, (March 29, 2023) The Canada Organic Trade Association (COTA) hosted its 2023 Organic Leadership Awards and evening gala to recognize the trailblazers and innovators of the organic industry. Located at the Listel Hotel in Vancouver, guests celebrated organic accomplishments, connected over local cuisine, as champions in the organic space were recognized. This is the 8th year COTA has presented these awards to Canadian catalysts that are progressing the Canadian organic sector to new heights.
“Each year we look forward to honouring organic leaders that have made great strides within the organic sector. We are so proud to recognize these organic leaders and are inspired by their incredible dedication to the advancement of organic. We celebrate their achievements.” said Tia Loftsgard, Executive Director, COTA.
This years’ awards and gala evening were graciously sponsored by Nature’s Path Foods, Riverside Natural Foods, Pro-Cert Organic Systems Ltd., Horizon Grocery + Wellness, and Ecocert Canada, all members of COTA and have a longstanding commitment to the growth of the organic industry.
The engraved flame-shaped award represents an acknowledgment of the recipient’s hard work in the organic sector and points to the passion demonstrated by innovators who forge a path of distinction to ensure organic is protected, promoted, and that their work lights the way for future generations.
Congratulations to the award recipients:
Organic Champion of the Year – Ian Walker
Organic Supplier of the Year – Discovery Organics
Outstanding Leadership in Organic Science – Myriam R. Fernandez, PhD
Organic Retailer of the Year – Canadian Natural Health Retailer Magazine, Bruce W. Cole & Alive Publishing Group, Ryan Benn
Organic Innovator of the Year – Mill Street Brewery
Organic Farming Award – St. Brigid’s Creamery
Distinguished Supporter of the Year – MP Ryan Turnbull
The Organic Champion of the Year was proudly presented to Ian Walker. Ian has supported the organic marketplace for over 25 years as a business owner, advocate and contributor. His business, Left Coast Naturals has been involved in manufacturing and distributing organic products since 1996. He continually innovates organic products that are distributed across Canada and the USA.
“I am very honoured to be the recipient of the Organic Champion of the Year Award from COTA. Left Coast has been strong advocates for Organic for over 25 years and we really appreciate the recognition from such an important partner. COTA has been a strong voice for organic and has built a great community of organic champions. I am proud to be a long-time member and to have worked with COTA in growing organics in Canada.” Ian Walker, CEO, Left Coast Naturals.
Discovery Organics was awarded the Organic Supplier of the Year Award. Discovery Organics has been in business for 24 years with offices and warehousing in Vancouver and Calgary. Discovery offers a full certified organic lineup of over 400 line items of fresh fruit and vegetables every week. Discovery strategically chooses to source from Fair Trade and from smaller size family farms whenever possible.
“We are proud to represent so many wonderful organic growers from all over the world. It is an honour to be recognized by COTA as Organic Supplier of the Year.” Stefan Misse, President, Discovery Organics.
Dr. Myriam R. Fernandez was honoured with the award of Outstanding Leadership in Organic Science. She is the Head of the Organic Research Program for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada at the Swift Current Research and Development Centre (SCRDC), Swift Current, SK. Working as a research scientist for over 30 years and in organic research since the late 1990’s, contributing to 130 peer-reviewed publications, a key advancement was her involvement that led to the establishment of a multidisciplinary Organic Research Program.
“It is an honour to receive this award. It reinforces our passion for organic research and the multiple possibilities to advance this work in the years to come, while also showing the numerous benefits of organic crop production. The main objective of our organic research program will continue to be the adaptation of different cropping systems to our environment while making them more sustainable and resilient. This would also be of benefit to other regions that might undergo similar challenges due to climate change.” Myriam R. Fernandez, PhD.
Canadian Natural Health Retailer (Bruce W. Cole) and Alive Publishing Group (Ryan Benn) were awarded the Organic Retailer of the Year. Canadian Natural Health Retailer (CNHR) is Canada’s premier business magazine for health food stores. In September 2020, Alive Publishing Group (APG) acquired CNHR, further strengthening APG’s partnership with both retailers and manufacturers. They are being recognized for leadership in the retail space, their outstanding role in working with retailers to encourage organic through their publications.
“It is an honour to be recognized by COTA with this award and I accept it on behalf of all natural health retailers: they are the ones who started the organic movement, who have promoted it tirelessly for decades and who continue to champion it every day.” Bruce W. Cole, Canadian Natural Health Retailer.
“I am deeply honoured to receive the Organic Leadership Award – Retailer of the Year – from the Canada Organic Trade Association. Our team at Alive Publishing Group is passionate about promoting the organic movement and educating consumers about the benefits of choosing organic. We believe that organic agriculture is not only better for our health and the environment, but it also supports local economies and strengthens communities. This award is a testament to the hard work and dedication of everyone at Alive Publishing Group, and we are committed to continuing our efforts to promote organic living and sustainability in Canada.” Ryan Benn, Alive Publishing Group
Mill Street Brewery was the proud recipient of the Organic Innovator of the Year Award. Mill Street Brewery grew the organic industry through their support of the Organic Transition Program, funding expansions to organic acres and livestock. They promoted the importance of transitioning to organic by actively engaging consumers through their advocacy campaign “Organic Future” featuring Angela Martin from the TV show “The Office”.
“Mill Street Brewery is honoured to accept COTA’s 2023 Organic Innovator of the Year Award, in recognition of our contributions towards growing the organic industry. Thank you to all who have helped in Mill Street’s success over the years – from our customers to our employees and suppliers, as well as support from industry partners like COTA. Brewing organic has been at the core of how Mill Street has operated for over 20 years, and we look forward to furthering Organic for another 20 years!” Emma Barrett, Head of Marketing, Mill Street Brewery
St. Brigid’s Creamery was honoured with the Organic Farming Award. Bill van Nes’ (St. Brigid’s Creamery) organic story is one of true dedication to organic farming, organic livestock and organic products. In his 25 plus years of organic farming, he has had many ups and downs and his sheer perseverance to continue with what he believes in is an inspiration.
“We are honoured by the recognition of our work. We celebrate all the nominees for all the COTA Organic Leadership Awards who are committed to organic practices. We are very grateful for the many teams and organisations that help us bring our products to market and the individuals, here and throughout Canada, that choose organics as a standard, and beyond, a way of life.” Bill van Nes, St. Brigid’s Creamery
Member of Parliament Ryan Turnbull was honoured with the Distinguished Supporter of the Year Award. This is a new award that recognizes individuals and organizations who have helped to advance the cause of organic in political and bureaucratic realms, both domestically and internationally. Ryan Turnbull’s strong support for the organic sector and his support for a bold Canada Organic Action Plan have been recognized.
“I am honoured to receive the ‘Distinguished Supporter of the Year’ Award from the Canada Organic Trade Association (COTA). As a passionate proponent of social innovation and sustainability, I regard the principles of organic agriculture – health, ecology, care and fairness – as being foundational for the good of ‘people and planet’. As a policy maker, I continue to advocate for environmental stewardship, biodiversity, food security, healthy communities, sustainable development, and sustainable food systems in Canada. It is a privilege to support the commendable and essential work you do to promote human and environmental health, while ensuring the well-being of current and future generations.” -Ryan Turnbull, Member of Parliament
COTA’s Annual Organic Leadership Awards were established in 2016. Recipients of these awards are nominated by their peers and chosen by the COTA Governance Committee of the Board of Directors.
To learn more about the awards, read all the recipient’s bios and view past recipients, visit https://canada-organic.ca/en/who-we-are/organic-leadership