In the Beginning
The farming roots of James (Jim) Simpson and Helen Simpson are the foundation of the company now known as Simpson Seeds Incorporated. Jim and Helen had a family of four children – three of whom were boys, Tom, Greg and John Simpson. In the fall of 1965 the Simpson family moved from their farm located West of Moose Jaw, to one located two miles south of the #1 highway, southeast of Moose Jaw.
During the 1960’s and 70’s, changes in the Agriculture Industry prompted several farmers to diversify their operation in hopes of reducing some of the risks associated with farming such as fluctuating market conditions and as always, weather. One of the ways growers were beginning to diversify was in their cropping choices. Around 1975 a new and upcoming trend was adding yellow peas to a cropping rotation. At the time this was viewed as risky, because several growers were unsure what to expect when growing this crop. Little did they know this would later open the door for other pulse crops such as lentils and chickpeas. By growing and having access to new crop choices and varieties, Jim and his three sons saw an opportunity to build something to keep them busy year round, to move around single desk marketing (such as CWB), and at the same time to diversify their own farm operation.
In the late 70’s the idea of building a seed cleaning facility began to float around the Simpson Family table. The influence for this idea was sourced from Greg’s employment with Agriculture Canada, and his experience in administering the Canadian Seeds Act and regulation of seed cleaning and processing plants. In 1977, John, Greg and Tom became certified seed growers, and shortly thereafter, the building of the plant commenced while Greg was still employed with Agriculture Canada. Through an interesting twist of destiny, a call regarding a distressed car of Barley allowed Greg to gain a contact in Winnipeg that was offering contracts for commercial processing of lentils.
By August 13, 1979 Simpson Seeds Inc (“SSI”) was born. At this time Jim was president and each of the three sons were vice presidents of the company. By 1980 pedigree seed cleaning activity commenced; in their first year of processing, John, Greg and Tom cleaned their first million pounds of lentils.
Throughout the 1980’s the Simpson family operated the plant as a custom seed cleaning operation, while at the same time farming their own land. In 1988 Jim expressed interest in retiring and proceeded to disperse his shares to Tom, Greg and John in exchange for an annuity. The three brothers each became 1/3 owners of SSI.
Later, Simpson Seeds began cleaning grain for other companies, taking on a toll processing role. In the early 1990’s the brothers made the decision to begin exporting pulse crops on their own as opposed to simply processing for others.
In 1992, SSI purchased land and buildings from Krahn’s Fertilizer on the north end of Moose Jaw close to a railway line. The motive in purchasing this facility was to gain direct access to rail, allowing ease of shipment to the ports of Vancouver and Montreal. At this time, bags were brought up from the main plant location to this new rail location and loaded into boxcars, until 1993 when its own bagging line was installed. By 1995, the railcar capacity at railsite was increased, a receiving system installed, and Line 1 cleaning plant built.
In 2001, the first member of the third generation (“G3”) of Simpsons, Tyler returned to the family business after completing post-secondary education. He began at the main plant location.
A second cleaning line was built at railsite in 2002 to take advantage of a larger railcar spot and increase capacity between the two plants thereby growing export capabilities.
In 2004 and 2005, three more members of the third generation returned to SSI. Elyce returned from University in 2004 and started her training in logistics and shipping from railsite. Trevor and Jamie returned the following year, also completing post secondary education, and began assisting Tom with farming operations and some shipping.
In 2006 the Simpson family – now having seven members involved in the company began discussing what the next step was for SSI. In world markets, Canada was quickly becoming well known as a large supplier of high quality red lentils and other pulses. In the Canadian Agriculture industry, there was again the call for diversification and specialization, therefore several Ag business were in the midst of investigating value add processes for their operation. The vision moving forward was to create a value add red lentil splitting facility. Through 2006 and 2007 the family members travelled country and worldwide to gather information to begin the design of the red lentil splitting mill.
In fall of 2008, Nicole, the fifth member of G3 returned to the company following University and out-of-province employment. At this time the warehouse building that would enclose the mill was completed, and pieces of the mill were ordered or in transit to railsite. The eight family members also made the decision to treat this new addition as a separate entity to give G3 a company to build, run, manage and eventually own. On July 30, 2008 Westgate Mills Inc. was formed.
By late summer of 2008, most of the major components of the mill were installed, milling commenced by early fall. From this point to present day G3 has been managing this facility under the guidance of G2.
Also in the fall of 2008, SSI decided to branch into new locations of the province. A facility named Kyle Seed Cleaning with locations in Swift Current and Kyle was put up for sale by its owners. After great consideration it was decided that the purchase of these facilities would allow access to a larger group of growers, reduce risk of low grain supplies due to crop failure in a given area, and the Swift Current plant boasted a 17 car rail spur that could significantly enhance SSI’s bulk loading program. On September 15, 2008 SSI officially acquired this company. A current employee of SSI was relocated to Swift Current to manage the plant, and from there new employees were recruited and shipping commenced. In Kyle, three employees remained through the acquisition.
Since late 2007, G2 and G3 began meeting with David Bentall of Next Step Advisors to facilitate the process of management and ownership succession of Simpson Seeds Inc. and Westgate Mills Inc. We have been successful in detailing ownership succession and continue to work with David on management succession.
Currently, Simpson Seeds Inc. is a buyer, processor, marketer and exporter of specialty crops such as lentils, peas, chickpeas and canary seed. SSI has shipped to over 80 countries worldwide and will continue to ship grain from all four facilities.