Loretta Simpson used to be a truck driver, hauling loads back and forth between Prince George and Alberta. Eventually, after years of passing through the gorgeous Robson Valley on a regular basis, Loretta decided to purchase property and settle down in the area. Her late husband had experience in beef farming, so they began working with a small herd of cattle.
When Loretta’s husband passed away, she was faced with some tough decisions. In the end, she decided to keep the farm and try to manage it on her own. Her decision proved to be the right one, and Loretta continues to manage a beef operation with her current partner Herb Bulman, who moved from the Peace River area with extensive farming experience.
About 7 years ago, a neighbor gave Loretta a few garlic bulbs, which she planted in her flower garden. The resulting crop was amazing. Loretta was so wowed by the flavour, that she was planted more and more each year. She eventually grew more garlic than she could consume on her own, so she started selling it to friends and family. In 2009, when beef prices hit a record .93 cents/lb low and her garlic was selling for $8/lb, she recognized an opportunity.
This fall Loretta put 5000 heads of garlic in the ground, up from the 3000 she planted last year. She’s not even sure what the exact variety of garlic she is planting, as it’s still a direct descendent of the bulb her neighbor gave her years ago, but she suspects it’s a Russian variety that likely came from fellow Robson Valley grower, Irene Froese.
Loretta credits the Robson Valley Growers’ Group, a newly established network of farmers, ranchers, and gardeners in the Robson Valley, with helping to get her garlic to market, including the Jasper Farmers’ Market.
As a fertile growing area with a very small population, the Robson Valley is an excellent place to grow food, but a difficult place to find markets for farm products.
The Robson Valley Growers’ Group has helped to remedy this by cooperatively transporting and selling Robson Valley produce to the Jasper Farmers’ Market. The group also offers a place for growers in the region to connect, share experiences, and build a community of practice.