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Thistle Farm: Growing garlic fit for a king

By Keith Powell
Thistle Farm, owned and operated by the husband and wife team of Kip and Michele Cantrell, grows garlic in along Channel Road near Wynndel. Katie Roseboom Photography

By Keith Powell

It’s been said that if the onion is Queen then surely garlic must be King. If so, the king’s domain stretches out to the rich, loamy flats of Creston. That is where you will find a little garlic farm called Thistle Farm. The farm is tucked in along Channel Road near Wynndel. Thistle Farm is owned and operated by the husband and wife team of Kip and Michele Cantrell.

“Michele and I have been in agriculture and food production most of our lives. We saw the opportunity with garlic to create a sustainable future for our family here in the Creston Valley,” said Kip Cantrell. “At Thistle Farm we strive to use the best possible growing practices for maintaining the health of our land and soil. We have implemented a rotational cover cropping schedule that feeds our soil, reduces weed pressure and helps limit pests and pathogens.”

He continues about the uniqueness of their Creston Valley garlic farm, “One of our more successful cover cropping techniques has been the use of a specialized type of mustard that works as a bio-fumigant. By developing techniques to build our soil and respect our land, we can ensure successful production long into the future.”

Kip and Michele started growing garlic with a local farm that had been producing garlic for many years. It was through that relationship that the couple developed the skills and a love for growing garlic.

Michele explained, “In building our farm we found that garlic has something of a cult following, with many people seeking out specific varieties that they love. They go to festivals all about garlic. They grow their own and share stories about it. I really enjoy that a lot of the job is talking with people about their passion for good garlic.”

Keith Powell photo
Keith Powell photo

It’s no surprise that growing garlic is very hard work, but it also has given the busy couple, who have two young children, long off-seasons. It was this schedule that attracted the Cantrells to garlic farming. It brought them to growing garlic because, for the first few years, it allowed them to work on other projects. More recently they have used the down time to focus on our own infrastructure, product development, and the growth of their business.

The Cantrells report that demand for high quality garlic is very strong, the hardest part is to consistently produce large, clean, and beautiful garlic. Their whole crop is sold within the Kootenays, mostly in small quantities right into peoples kitchens.

Thistle Farm has expanded from a small plot of garlic at a friend’s place, to now covering four acres of farmland where they produce approximately 10,000 pounds of garlic annually. Both Michele and Kip are now full-time on the farm and we have seven seasonal employees. Transitioning to only working on the farm has allowed them to really accelerate the development of our farm and business.

What does the future hold for Thistle Farm? “We recently built a commercial processing kitchen for making our line of garlic products such as garlic mills, scape salt, smoked garlic and black garlic and now have a brand new online store for all of our products.”

Of course, farmer’s markets like the Creston Valley Farmer’s Market have been their main sales avenue right from the beginning in 2018. Since then they have expanded to include other farmer’s markets in the Kootenay region including Cranbrook, Nelson and Fernie. Thistle Farm also began commercial sales in 2019 with Creston’s Pealow’s Your Independent Grocer. The farm has now expanded to include grocers in Fernie, Cranbrook, Crawford Bay, and soon to be in Nelson.

MIchele sums it up, “Our garlic is a labour of love, it’s planted, harvested, and cleaned by hand, every single bulb. We operate without the use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides on our property.We inspect each garlic for damage and blemishes that might affect shelf life. People love good garlic, and we love growing it for them.”

Kip also mentioned, “Our next big step is to build a barn that will streamline our operations and allow us to expand. We are hoping to start building this fall and have the building up and operational by next year’s harvest. We are really excited that we have started work on a farm stand at our place on Channel Road in Wynndel. The stand will of course be full of garlic and our garlic products, but also seasonal vegetables from our farm. You can expect to find french shallots, onions, peas, carrots, beets, peppers, eggplants and much more. We will be open for customers by spring of 2024.”

Truly garlic is King at Creston’s Thistle Farm on Channel Road near Wynndel. You can will find them at

Photos: Keith Powell and Katie Roseboom Photography