Thunder Bay, Ont. — Josh Szura helped his grandfather, Herb Kaus, whom he calls Opa, clean out his tool shed and was given a mere handful of his Opa’s garlic that Kaus had been cultivating for almost 60 years.
Szura says Kaus originally bought some garlic, which he considered the ultimate health food. He continued to plant and regrow that yearly for 57 years and would save all the best ones to plant that fall for next year’s good crop.
When Kaus became ill, around 2020, he wasn’t able to continue to garden anymore.
“And that simultaneously, by complete coincidence was the year that I began to grow a garden,” Szura said.
“He gave me a couple of tiny little bulbs from last year when most garlic totally dries up by that point. This one holds really well through the winter.”
The following spring, Szura unknowingly planted the bulbs that were supposed to be planted in the fall. It takes about 10 months for the small bulbs to develop into heads with multiple bulbs and Szura’s bulbs only grew into singular rounds.
“That’s not a complete garlic ball and is just a halfway point. So I replanted those again that year and in August, the following season I harvested my very first successful crop of Opa garlic and I was just over the world. I had about 12 bulbs and I was just so thrilled. I didn’t eat any of them, not one, and I replanted all of them. Each time you break open that head and plant each bulb, you’re going to get eight to 10 to 12 heads the following year.
After three years, Szura has grown almost 800 bulbs and named the variety Herbie. Today, Szura operates Sun Bowl Farm on a two-hectare parcel of land on the property of Loch Lomond Ski Area.
For the past two years, each Friday and Saturday during the summer months, Szura sells his grown produce in a country market based out of the ski hill chalet with an army of volunteers, many of whom have never met Szura.
“All the help that’s come in here is all by the kindness of the community,” he said.
“I started to get a little bit tired and I put a call out on my social media page asking friends and family if they would like to come and help out — it was pretty beautiful what ended up happening,” he said.
Jason Gerry, owner and operator of Loch Lomond Ski Area, employed Szura for years and offered growing space and a marketing area which proved to be beneficial for both businesses.
“He’s a great guy, and here was an opportunity for him to do something in the summers to keep him around — and we had lots of extra property so it wasn’t a difficult decision for us to make.”
Gerry said the best part is to have staff around through the off-season summer months and the two businesses “complement each other well.”
At the chalet, the North Face restaurant has opened in conjunction with the Sun Bowl Market featuring Szura’s farm fresh veggies in their menu.
Szura plans to host a fundraising venture where anyone who makes a donation of $20 will receive one of the first 2,000 Herbie garlic bulbs next year, leading to an annual Garlic Festival.
This year, Szura has grown a 700-pound giant pumpkin named Herbie and invites everyone to the farm site on Sept. 20 for the harvest of Herbie.