Garlic business growing in northeast Saskatchewan

By Charlene Tebbutt
April 10, 2018 - 1:23pm Updated: April 10, 2018 - 2:16pm

When Dave and Krista McBain started growing and processing garlic, some people thought the idea stunk.

The couple looked at several options, but persevered with the plan to grow garlic and now operate one of the largest production and processing operations in the province, running their business near the northeast Saskatchewan community of White Fox. M&M Garlic is available in grocery and meat shops across the province. You can order through their website and find it at many area trade shows as well.

“When we first started, one lady actually came up and told us garlic should be against the law,” Dave McBain told farmnewsNOW. "Garlic was too strong for everybody when we first started making it.”

The couple started with 35 pounds of garlic in 1996, and now process between 15,000 and 20,000 jars of pickled garlic, carrots and asparagus each year. The company also produces powdered garlic, minced garlic and salsa.

The operation has been challenged at times to find the right equipment to do the job, McBain said. Equipment needed for picking and drying garlic can be expensive, so McBain improvised to come up with the right tools he needs, such as a garlic planter using the frame from an old pony press and a belt from a John Deere.

“It’s kind of like a hoe drill, a potato planter is similar,” he added. “And, I actually put bottle caps on it with rivets and cut them in a half moon."

The McBains are part of a growing trend across the country. Garlic production is a growing market in Canada. Statistics Canada numbers show the amount of garlic sold to fresh and processing markets has grown from 752 metric tonnes in 2012, to 1,040 tonnes in 2016.

Garlic is in the top 10 of Canadian vegetables exported worldwide, according to statistics.

McBain is planning to plant a couple hundred pound of garlic again this spring. The couple uses the soft-core variety of garlic for pickling. McBain says it produces 15 to 20 cloves each.

McBain says he’s hoping to get out into the fields to start planting mid-May, but with more than two feet of snow still outside, he said he’s expecting the fields to be wetter this spring. 

“We haven’t had a lot of problems with the garlic, except for water,” he added. “That’s been our biggest challenge, and machinery.”


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