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Grant Howes inducted into Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame

County cider-making legend Grant Howes was inducted into the Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame Sunday at the Gray Way Event Centre in Elora. At the ceremony were Nick Sutcliffe (Pommies Cider Co.), Senator Rob Black, The Hon. Lyle Vanclief, Jenifer Dean (County Cider Co), and Monica Alyea.

County cider-making legend Grant Howes was inducted into the Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame (OAHF) Sunday – among six people who positively influenced Ontario agriculture.

Richard Grant Howes was nominated by his wife and partner Jenifer Dean, who continues their vision at the company as cider maker and managing director. The County Cider Company founder died suddenly at his Waupoos home in 2017. He was 60 years of age. Dean spoke to his commitment, vision and tireless efforts that significantly advanced the interests of Ontario apple growing.

“Grant was my partner in business and in life for only 15 years when he died suddenly,” Dean told the full house audience at the GrandWay Centre in Elora on Sunday. “Honouring Grant and his legacy is important to me and so when my friend Monica Alyea (also attending) suggested nominating him for the Hall of Fame, I was all in!”

She spoke to his many talents as a businessman, entrepreneur and eventually an apple grower and cider maker.

“He began with the idea of creating Ontario cider from Ontario apples back in early 1990s as a way to make a value-added product from his family’s farms at Howes Orchards and Loyalist Orchards. His passion for growing the right fruit for cider making led him to trying many unusual varieties of apples, on different rootstocks and using different trellising methods. This led into his pursuit of making the best cider he could possibly make.”

She shared his words:  “These ciders, the truly magnificent ones, were all made by people who grow their own apples, tend their orchards, pick, select, blend and make their ciders where they live. Greatness can only be achieved by knowing the characteristics and nuances of the underlying apple varieties, how those apples are affected by yearly changes in weather patterns and, if you are very lucky, perhaps 30 years of trying to get it right.”

“In the early days he would sit in the pubs that sold his cider, buy pints and talk about cider to anyone who would listen….and listen they did,” added Dean. “Part of his legacy was his unflagging effort in the pursuit of fair cider taxation and championing the cider industry in general. ‘A rising tide floats all boats’ was a favourite expression.

“I feel Grant’s legacy really comes from those he encouraged along the way to success in the cider industry. Nick Sutcliffe of Pommies Cider, Chris Haworth at West Avenue Cider, here in Ontario, and Al Yelvington of Shadow Cider, in Pennsylvania, are dear friends whom Grant helped follow their own cider dreams.

During his lifetime Grant became known fondly as the ‘Grandfather of Ontario Cider’ , though Dean notes he really wished to be the ‘Godfather of Ontario cider’ because The Soprano’s was his favourite television show.

Howes was a founding member of the Fruit Wine Association, The Prince Edward Wine Grower’s Association and the Ontario Craft Cider Association.

In 2009, he was a recipient of the Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence for his work producing and promoting Ontario Ice Cider. Dean notes the positive impact on the agricultural sector is being able to utilize almost worthless apples in a very high quality, value-added produce.

 

“Grant’s humour, generosity and ability to turn a phrase made him a memorable man to all he met. Although he didn’t quite make it to 30 years in the business, County Cider at Waupoos will be celebrating that milestone in 2025,” said Dean. “I believe if it were not for his efforts the Ontario craft cider industry would not be where it is today.

She also thanked those who wrote letters of support for the nomination, including former Hastings Prince Edward MP Lyle Vanclief, who served as Minister of Agriculture from 1997 to 2003; Bay of Quinte MPP Todd Smith,  Cathy McKay and Kelly Ciceran of The Ontario Apple Grower’s, Nick Sutcliffe Co-Owner of Pommies Cider and Monica Alyea a former councillor in Prince Edward County.

The day’s six inductees brings the total number of people recognized since 1980, to 262. Howes joins Bert Andrews, Ron Bonnett, Bill Gray, Verner Toews and Tina Widowski as those selected by the Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame Association as worthy candidates based on their life-long commitments to Ontario’s agriculture.

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