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Agri-Food Innovators Honoured in Colborne

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Agri-Food Innovators Honoured in Colborne

The Premier's Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence recognizes the innovative contributions of producers, processors, agri-food organizations and rural communities in Ontario. Their innovations improve existing products, create new jobs and grow Ontario's economy.

In 2014, 50 award recipients will be recognized, including the top Premier's Award, Minister's Award, and three Leaders in Innovation award winners.

The following are regional award recipients of the Premier's Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence from Hastings County, Muskoka District, Northumberland County and Prince Edward County:

Harwood Estate Vineyards Inc., Hillier

What's good for the environment and the community can also be great for business. Just ask Harwood Estate Vineyards. The vineyard is 100 per cent solar-powered, eliminating monthly energy bills that previously were up to $2,000. Nor do the green practices stop here. In partnership with Ontario's Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, the progressive vineyard introduced experimental pest control strategies such as pheromone disruptors and cover crops. To conserve water supplies and ensure irrigation during dry periods, Harwood Estate also installed a catchment system that harvests 85,000 litres of rainwater each year. Finally, the company only hires locally, supporting the local community and economy. Thanks to these measures, Harwood Estate has cut its costs, helped the planet and generated a whole lot of good will.

Johnston's Cranberry Marsh & Muskoka Lakes Winery, Bala

Until recently, the folks at Johnston's Cranberry Marsh & Muskoka Lakes Winery were forced to compost 20,000 pounds of perfectly good fruit each year. Because consumers prefer bright red cranberries, the growers were discarding white, pink and light-coloured berries. Then they got to thinking. They had already produced a successful red cranberry wine. Why not put their wasted fruit to equally good use? It took some doing, but after a lot of experimentation the first-ever white cranberry wine was born. Nowadays, those 20,000 pounds of would-be compost are transformed into 6,000 litres of award-winning fruit wine that's sold at the farm, online and through the LCBO. Now that's something worth raising your glass to.

Kaley's Acres, Castleton

These days, more and more nutrition-conscious consumers are reaching for kale. And what tastier way to enjoy it than in the form of chips? In 2009, Draupadi and Adrian Quinn converted 10 acres of former tobacco fields into kale production. The hardy crop has an exceptionally long growing season that extends right until December. The real magic however happens in the 5,000-square-foot on-farm processing facility. Here, the nutrient-packed leaves are transformed into five different flavours of raw, guilt-free snacks. Annual sales have sky rocketed, and the operation employs 15 seasonal and year-round workers. With demand strong and growing, the Quinns are now planning to open a 20,000-square-foot processing plant down the road that will process 20 tonnes of kale a week.

La Cultura Salumi Inc., Trenton

In the countryside midway between Belleville and Trenton, you'll find a taste of the old world at La Cultura Salumi. Here, in a state-of-the-art facility, founder Frank Abballe uses Italian dry ageing and artisan techniques to produce cured meats that would make nonna proud. It all starts with free-range water buffalo. The lean meat naturally has 80 per cent less saturated fat than beef and 25 per cent less cholesterol. It's processed using a low-sodium technique that cuts salt content by 50 per cent without sacrificing texture or taste. La Cultura Salumi's lip-smacking lineup includes carpaccio, culatello, fiocco and more. Now, Abballe is working with local producers to extend the product range even further.

Pyramid Farm and Ferments, Picton

There's lots of innovation fermenting - quite literally - in Prince Edward County these days. At Pyramid Farm and Ferments, Alex Currie and Jenna Empey have revived the lost art of making sauerkraut, sauerruben and other fermented vegetables. Drawing on traditional Ukrainian recipes from the 1900s, the pair has successfully commercialized a lactobacillus-based fermentation process. No vinegar or chemicals are required. Only cabbage, beets and other locally grown veggies go into their products. The result? Handcrafted products that the LCBO Food and Drink magazine calls "winter must-haves." Currie and Empey have doubled their income between 2012 and 2013. To keep up with booming demand, they are now planning new fermentation tanks to expand their production capacity eight fold.

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