As the international year of the pulse draws to a close, I spent an entire day in Regina tracing the steps of a Saskatchewan-grown lentil. It’s worth mentioning that all of the fun activities and destinations of this day were organized by Economic Development Regina – and, I wasn’t alone. The day was an opportunity for local and foreign journalists to explore first-hand the story of pulses in Saskatchewan.
Although at one point most of Regina was farmland, finding a lentil crop today requires leaving the city limits and I ended up just east of Riceton on the Moats’ farm. Lee Moats is a third generation farmer who added pulses to his rotation nearly 25 years ago. Through my time spent on the Richardson’s Farm, I’ve learned quite a bit about pulses during my time as the Saskatchewanderer, however, for many in attendance this was their first chance to speak directly with a farmer. As Lee discussed what’s entailed in growing lentils, the concept of nitrogen fixing caught plenty of attention: lentils fix nitrogen from the atmosphere into the soil which in turn benefits future crops.
Our second stop of the day was at AGT’s first food processing plant. Located on the eastern edge of Regina, AGT tailors their processing expertise to match local crop growth. For example, near Wilkie and west central Saskatchewan there are higher numbers of green lentil crops, as such, AGT’s processing facilities there will be different than a facility in Rosetown where a higher number of red lentils are grown. It was very interesting touring their impressive facility, but it was even more interesting speaking with the people who make AGT Food such an impressive company. I had to opportunity to speak with Murad Al-Katib who transformed AGT from a small company based in his parent’s basement into the world’s largest value-added pulse processor with $1.7 billion in revenues last year.
After seeing how lentils are processed the group made its way to Regina City Hall, where the city proclaimed October 28th “We Love Pulses Day”. What better way to celebrate than a delicious lunch at Crave featuring pulses grown in Saskatchewan? Crave’s Executive Chef Jonathan Thauberger prepared two amazing dishes which did a perfect job of highlighting unique ways of cooking with pulses - have you ever tried chickpea brittle?
When lunch wrapped up, a panel discussion was assembled to give visiting journalists an opportunity to ask questions of industry professionals. Discussion migrated from past growth of the industry to the potential growth pulses hold across the world. It was inspiring listening to everyone speak so passionately about an industry with strong roots in Saskatchewan and the following stop is home to one of the most interesting people I’ve encountered during my time as the Saskatchewanderer.
During my first month as the Saskatchewanderer I visited Rebellion Brewing in Regina, to learn about their innovative lentil and while there I met Mark Heise. Mark and the team at Rebellion Brewing do an incredible job of brewing unique flavorful beers from locally grown ingredients. Their lentil cream ale is comprised of 20 per cent king red lentils, which come directly from AGT Food - curiously, Mark mentioned that he’s not once needed to pick up an order of lentils as the crew at AGT Foods is always eager to visit. If you’ve not yet tried Rebellion Brewing’s lentil cream ale it’s something everyone in Saskatchewan needs to taste.
Big thanks to Alison with Economic Development Regina and Deborah with Tourism Regina for making this fun filled day possible.