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30th OPMA Awards ceremony goes virtual


November 20, 2020
By Fruit and Vegetable

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The Ontario Produce Marketing Association (OPMA) held their annual awards ceremony on Nov. 19 to celebrate four movers-and-shakers in Ontario produce and the industry in general. This event marks the OPMA’s 30th anniversary, and their first virtual awards ceremony.

The four awards given out are:

  • The OPMA Fresh Award: given to a young person or newcomer to the industry who demonstrates passion and dedication to the industry and consistently works to improve the quality, distribution or consumption of Ontario fruit and vegetables;
  • The Cory Clack-Streef Produce Person of the Year: given to a person who regularly demonstrates a commitment to the industry and improving the quality, distribution or consumption of Ontario fruits and vegetables, with a focus on innovation, co-operation and hard work;
  • The OPMA Outstanding Achievement Award: given to an individual or entity who has demonstrated an outstanding contribution to the produce industry through their efforts to improve the quality and distribution of fruits and vegetables; the recipient could also be a person responsible for a new technology or innovation introduced within the last year to the produce industry; and
  • The OPMA Lifetime Achievement Award: given to an individual who has demonstrated over many years consistent efforts to improve the quality and distribution of Ontario fruits and vegetables through innovation, cooperation and hard work.

The winner of the 2020 OPMA Fresh award was Tom Heeman. Heeman is heavily involved with his family’s strawberry farm, president of Berry Growers of Ontario, a councillor for the municipality of Thames Centre and vice-president of ALUS (Alternative Land Use Services) Middlesex.

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Peter Quiring, president and founder of Nature Fresh Farms (NFF), was named the 2020 Cory Clack-Streef Produce Person of the Year. During the early stages of the pandemic, Quiring stepped up and offered complete transparency into NFF’s asymptomatic outbreak, sharing the company’s experience and insight into obstacles that farmers and greenhouses in general were facing. Quiring was quick to attribute the company’s success and award to everyone working at NFF.

The 2020 OPMA Outstanding Achievement Award was given to Joe Sbrocci, general manager of Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers. Sbrocci received the award for his efforts to maintain balance during the chaos of the pandemic.

There were two OPMA Lifetime Achievement Awards given out at this year’s ceremony. Gordon Love is currently the vice-president of business development for North American Produce Buyers, but he has consistently worked to improve produce access and marketing over the course of four decades.

Vince Pillitteri established Seaway Farms and Greenhouses in 1970. Located in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Seaway grows flowers, strawberries, peaches, plums and nectarines and runs an on-site farmers’ market; the business also involves many sustainability practices.