Central Huron's Huron Student Honey wins prestigious provincial awards
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
When the Economic Developers Council of Ontario (EDCO) handed out all of its awards last week, Central Huron had won two, including the Lieutenant Governor’s Award, the highest honour of the night.
The organization held its 65th annual awards gala and conference from April 5-7 at the Marriott Downtown at CF Toronto Eaton Centre by way of a hybrid model, welcoming people virtually, as well as in person. It was Central Huron Community Improvement Co-ordinator Angela Smith’s Huron Student Honey project that wowed judges and attendees as the winner of the Rural Excellence Award and then the Lieutenant Governor’s Award, the highest honour of the night, which is chosen by attendees from among all of the night’s nominees.
The municipality also received an honourable mention (runner-up spot) for its Back Alley Artist Extravaganza project in the tourism attraction and tourism product development category.
Speaking with The Citizen on Tuesday morning, Smith said it was “fantastic” to have the projects recognized provincially, especially when they were competing against some large-scale projects carried out in communities with higher population and more robust economic development departments and budgets.
In attending economic development awards ceremonies in the past, Smith said, projects from rural Ontario aren’t always represented, so to even be nominated alongside projects from larger communities was an honour. However, to win, was a very special feeling.
Smith said she was quite proud when the Huron Student Honey project took home the Rural Excellence Award. She took the award out into the hallway, so she and Central Huron Councillor Alison Lobb could take some pictures. However, not longer after they took a break from the ceremony was someone coming to find Smith and hurrying her back into the hall.
Soon she was on stage with Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell, hearing a glowing review of the Huron Student Honey project, what it means to Central Huron and how it could be replicated around the province.
Smith says she was overcome with emotion when she found out the municipality had won the top award of the night. As someone who has always been skeptical about the emotion that spills out when someone wins a large-scale award, Smith, now having been there, says she no longer doubts it and knows how easy it is to be overwhelmed with emotion in a moment like that.
The project had proven to be popular locally, engaging local students, teachers, volunteers and business owners, but it was when it caught the attention of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs that Smith knew she’d happened upon something great. She was told quite early that the ministry was interested in the project as a simple, cost-effective project that could be replicated in smaller communities across the province.
Winning a provincial award for it, however, never really crossed Smith’s mind, she said.
The nature of the project and how it became successful, however, Smith says, is really a testament to how things are accomplished in rural Ontario in communities like Central Huron. Without large-scale budgets and an extensive staffing complement, people have to get creative, bringing in students, volunteers and other community members to turn a vision into reality.
The Huron Student Honey project, for example, would have never gotten off the ground if it weren’t for beekeepers Adi Treasurywala and Jonathan Cucksey, who helped train those involved, including Smith herself, in an effort to make the project a success.
She says it really has been a community effort and while she’s the one that was lucky enough to walk across the stage and accept the award, there are so many people who made it possible, from Cucksey and Treasurywala to the students to the teachers to the volunteers and the business owners who sold the honey in their stores.