In this edition of Canada’s Tastemakers, FBC’s Ethan Adeland chats with Elyce Simpson Fraser from Simpsons Seeds in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.
FBC - Can you introduce yourself and tell us what you do?
ESF - My name is Elyce Simpson Fraser. I am the Director of Marketing and Business Development for Simpson Seeds Inc.
FBC - The Simpson Seeds story begins in 1965, how many generations are you now? Is the next generation already learning and part of the process?
ESF - Our farming story actually dates back even further then 1965. My Great Grandfather settled in Saskatchewan and experienced the Great Depression in which he lost the original farm but was able to buy it back later. We are now a 4th generation farming family.
On the Simpson Seeds Inc side we officially started in 1979. My grandpa was the first President of Simpson Seeds and helped his 3 sons Tom, Greg and John start the business. They have grown and operated the business the past 37 years. The children of the 3 brothers began to enter the business in 2001 through 2008. We now have 9 family members, three generations, working in the business today. The 3rd generation has been mentored by members internally and externally to grow in personal professional development and skills that allow us to assist with growth of the company. We are fortunate to have an outside independent Advisory Board in which 1 third generation family member serves on rotating basis. As well we have a succession planner whom we have been working with for 8 years developing a road map for the future of the business and the family members working in and outside of the business.
FBC - What is a typical day for you and the others on the farm?
ESF - I experience the farm on a limited basis. However I do support the farm on seed and promotion for our Iberina (exclusive variety to Simpson Seeds) program.
Each of us has a roll that complements all aspects of our business from Commercial Seed Sales to Lentil Trade and Exports. I focus my time on exploring market growth opportunities as well as potential new value add products for Simpson Seeds. Jamie Simpson and Trevor Simpson are heavily involved on the farm planning as well as seed program. Tyler Simpson is Director of Operations. Nicole Allport is Manager of Quality Assurance. Nolan Simpson is our IT Manager.
FBC - How much do you produce in a given year?
ESF - We set strategic goals each year for Simpson Seeds production and exports. We put a lot of thought and effort into maximizing our current facilities and expanding where we need. The same is done on the Commercial Seeds program side.
FBC - Your tagline is “Nourishing the World.” How many countries eat the lentils that are grown on your farm? Can you name some of them?
ESF - We ship very little from our own farm since the need for lentils and other agriculture products is enormous and growing as the world population increases. We really rely on our 3500 producers who we deal with to provide us with the needed volume to help us to feed people around the world. We export to just over 80 countries. While there is not a published number on how many countries currently consume lentils I believe the number is over 150 countries. Of course we aim to increase awareness and hope one day every country will consume lentils as a nutritional and sustainable food item.
FBC - This past year was particularly dry, but lentils are very resilient. Was this years yield much different than past years?
ESF - The year started off dry but it was needed. After 2 years of wet conditions the land was saturated with moisture and the drying helped reclaim some of the acres that were slews in the field. Lentils like dry weather and the root system of these plants actually will root tap deep into the ground to get moisture. Yields were average this year for most but down in various regions depending on the weather conditions received.
FBC - What are the differences and similarities you’ve seen over the years from your parents and grandparents and now you in how the farm is operated?
ESF - Lentils are much more well-known know than 20 years ago
FBC - Have you noticed a change in how people view and eat lentils nowadays?
ESF - There is a lot of interest in eating lentils. I was purchasing an item at a clothing store the other day and started chatting with the sales clerk. She asked what I did for a living and when I told her we export lentils she asked me right away where she can buy some as she read that they are healthy and wanted to try them. The United Nations has declared 2016 International Year of Pulses. We have seen a lot more information about Lentils and other pulses being made available to the general public. As more research goes into food and diet there are more positive communications about the benefits of incorporating lentils into our diets on a regular basis. We anticipate that having 2016 as a focal point specifically for Pulses will again increase awareness and create additional demand for lentils as people begin to try then and add them into their snacks and meals.
FBC - With the United Nations declaring 2016 as the International Year of Pulses (IYP), what do you think this will mean for Saskatchewan farmers?
ESF - I believe this will raise the profile of the Saskatchewan farmers to the rest of the world. Our growers should feel extremely proud of just how many people are fed around the world with the agriculture products they grow. Demand for our products will increase as knowledge and awareness to the end consumer is a key focus for 2016.
FBC - I see you recently donated to a local cause and fed 278 local families. How important is it to you to “nourish” your neighbours too?
ESF - It is very important to us that people are being nourished in our local communities as well as internationally. Lentils provide a very cost effective and nutritional way to feed families. By donating lentils to these groups it gives people an opportunity to try them and hopefully incorporate them on a regular basis.
FBC - You’re on Twitter (https://twitter.com/simpsonseeds), what sort of tweeting and sharing do you do on a given day?
ESF - Anything related to lentils mostly. We share a lot of health information, food trends and recipes. Also we tweet about events Simpson Seeds partake into show our followers who we are and what we do as an organization.
FBC - Would you say that most farmers have joined one of the following, Twitter, FB, Instagram, etc?
ESF - We focus on twitter as we find most growers use this platform as well as international customers. It’s a great way to spread information instantly.
FBC - As a “city” guy, I would love to see more stuff on what goes on at a farm. Do you see more farmers joining social media and sharing their day-to-day activities?
ESF - There are more young farmers out there on social media and they are starting to share more about their daily farming practices. If they could as an instant twitter feed from the GPS equipment or tractor then you’d really see what the growers are doing. May not be too far away from that!?
FBC - What is something you can tell us about lentils that not everyone knows?
ESF - Lentils have an amazing history. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, recognized the health benefits of lentils and prescribed then to patients suffering from live ailments.
FBC - I can’t end without asking you for your favourite way to prepare lentils. Do you have a favourite recipe or two to share?
ESF - This is a tough one as I have been trying some new recipes and the more I try the more of them become the new favourite. But I have to say mostly for nostalgic reasons my grandmas lentils cookies are the best. Grandma will still make these for our month end staff lunches to enjoy as a dessert. Needless to say they don’t last long in the staff lunch room!
- ½ cup margarine
- ½ cup packed brown sugar
- ¼ cup white sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp vanilla
- ⅔ cup white or whole wheat flour
- ½ tsp. baking soda
- 1 cup rolled oats
- ½ cup well cooked, drained lentils (Lairds)
- ½ cup cooked wild rice (optional)
- ½ cup raisins
- ½ cup sunflower seeds
- Preheat oven to 375 F.
- Cream margarine, sugars, eggs, and vanilla together until fluffy.
- Stir in flour, soda, lentils, rice, raisins and sunflower seeds.
- Drop by the teaspoonful onto greased baking sheet, allowing space for spreading.
- Press flat with floured fork.
- Bake at 375 F for 8 – 10 minutes.
- Carefully lift off pan; cool.