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Ontario Recognizing Outstanding Leaders in Rural Ontario

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Ontario Recognizing Outstanding Leaders in Rural Ontario

Province Presents First-Ever Rural Ontario Leaders Awards

Ontario is shining a light on exceptional leadership in rural communities through the inaugural Rural Ontario Leaders Awards.

Jeff Leal, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, announced the recipients of the first-ever Rural Ontario Leaders Awards at a ceremony today at the Rural Ontario Summit in Newcastle.

The awards celebrate the achievements of individuals, communities and non-profit organizations who have demonstrated leadership in helping build a stronger rural Ontario by fostering a competitive business environment, boosting economic development and improving the quality of life for its residents.

Winners of the first Rural Ontario Leaders Awards are:

  • Dr. Gezahgn Wordofa of Stratford, who is the founder and director of the Multicultural Association of Perth-Huron. Since 2012, the association has helped to welcome and settle new residents and immigrants to the community by providing referrals for community and government services, such as healthcare, housing, education and legal and translation services.
  • Grant Sparling of Blyth, who is the vice-president and general manager of Cowbell Brewing Company, which is a successful craft brewery with a rural-first mandate that prioritizes local and community economic development.
  • Freshwater Cuisine, which is a Kenora-based company devoted to the development and marketing of innovative freshwater fish products.
  • Eabametoong First Nation, which 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. 
  • 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.

Supporting rural and Indigenous communities is part of Ontario's plan to create fairness and opportunity during this period of rapid economic change. The plan includes a higher minimum wage and better working conditions, free tuition for hundreds of thousands of students, easier access to affordable child care, and free prescription drugs for everyone under 25 through the biggest expansion of medicare in a generation.

Quick Facts

  • The Rural Ontario Leaders Awards will be offered every two years and presented at the Rural Ontario Summit.
  • Those eligible can self-nominate or be nominated by an individual or group.

Additional Resources


“I am pleased to congratulate the winners of this year’s first-ever Rural Ontario Leaders Awards. Our government created these awards to recognize the real difference that individuals, businesses and communities are making to help build rural Ontario up. I would like to thank the individuals, groups and communities here today and all those nominated for their outstanding contributions to boosting economic growth in rural Ontario.”

Jeff Leal

Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and Minister Responsible for Small Business

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Rural and North