The Muskoka Lakes Farm and Winery, which has won many honours in the past for the way they’ve grown their business, has done it again. The Muskoka Lakes Farm and Winery won an Ontario Business Achievement Award at the Ontario Economic Summit on November 14 in Toronto. Jean-Ann Baranik, the farm’s Retail and Customer Experience Manager, accepted the award for Innovation in front of over 500 Ontario business leaders.

At home in Bala, Muskoka Lakes Farm and Winery Chief Executive Officer Wendy Hogarth credited the community for helping them receive this latest recognition. “Our success comes from our community – the people who have made a cranberry dream into a reality.”

The cranberry farm has grown into one of Canada’s largest fruit wineries and has become an iconic tourist destination as

Jean-Ann Baranik accepts award

thousands flock to see the cranberry farming and wine-making process, and in the past few years, the addition of the ice trail on the cranberry bogs has been a huge draw in winter. The Farm and Winery is open every day except Christmas and Boxing Day.

Always innovating has been key to the farm’s growth. Being rewarded for their forward thinking is not new for owners Hogarth and Murray Johnston. The Muskoka Lakes Farm and Winery has won four Premier’s Awards, making it the ‘winning-est’ agri-business, according to officials from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA). Now, with this new award, the farm and winery has been recognized as a leader among all Ontario business.

The Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commerce nominated the Bala business for this prestigious honour. “The farm is a significant employer for our region, both seasonally and year-round,” says Chamber President Spencer Morland. “They are also a strong part of Bala’s local identity. Bala is known as the ‘Cranberry Capital of Ontario’ and created the Bala Cranberry Festival in 1985. In our highly seasonal area, the marsh has created a year-round economic tourism driver.”

Adds Morland, “the Chamber was pleased to play a small role in ensuring they were recognized as a provincial business leader.”

In a day of factory farms, the Muskoka Lakes Farm and Winery remains a local, family farm committed to our environment and to making quality products from the fruit they grow. “Everything we do starts with a passion for where we live and what grows here,” says Hogarth. “With that strong sense of place, we have diversified into wine production and agri-tourism through creating innovative products and experiences that uniquely reflect Muskoka to our customers.”

The Ontario Business Achievement Awards also provided an opportunity for Muskoka Lakes Chamber Executive Director Norah Fountain, along with Baranik, to sit down with Ontario Attorney General Doug Downey, and the associate Minister for Small Business and Red Tape Reduction, Prabmeet Sarkaria. Fountain encouraged the Ministers to consider ways to help ease challenges that impede local business growth, with a focus on staff shortages, housing and more competitive Internet.