Belle Pulses Ltd. in Bellevue, owned by Tony and Francis Gaudet, has been recognized for their contribution to pulse industry and on January 12, 2021 were the recipients of the Pulse Promoter Award by the Saskatchewan Pulse Growers. The award recognizes individuals who have made a significant contribution to the development of Saskatchewan’s pulse industry in the areas of production, marketing, promotion, research, extension, processing, management, and/or innovation.1 “Tony and Francis have continued to expand the business started by their grandfather and father,” says Corey Loessin, SPG Director. “Both understand the market demand for split peas, and they have worked with plant breeders to end users to provide the product they want. They are taking peas from all across Saskatchewan and marketing them to the world.”
The actual company Belle Pulses may have started on paper 42 years ago, but the involvement with pulse crops for the Gaudet family started long before that. In the post-Depression years, Jean Gaudet realized along with others in the area around Bellevue, that the soil and growing conditions were right for field peas. Gaudet started harvesting and selling yellow peas to the Catelli Company in Quebec to make the Habitant brand pea soup in the 1940’s and is recognized as the first Saskatchewan broker to bag and ship yellow peas to the Quebec market. In the1970’s the demand for yellow peas continued to grow and Ronald Gaudet took over from his father Jean and expanded the marketing by incorporating a small cleaning plant on the farm. Then in 1978, Ronald together with his sons Gustave, Victor, and Antoine, formed Belle Pulses Ltd. The facility opened in 1979 and began bagging and cleaning peas, lentils and fava beans from all corners of Saskatchewan. Francis joined the company as an employee in 1984 after graduating high school and purchased shares in the company in 1993 when he got married.
By 1982, the company branched out by purchasing a pea splitter and started to process split yellow peas and by 1989 had perfected the process and were splitting green peas as well as yellow. Cleaning and bagging peas is not an art form according to Tony, anyone can do it, but splitting peas now that takes some skill. Ronald Gaudet passed away in 1994 leaving sons Tony and Francis to continue the business. By 2001 the business expanded further with the purchase of an elevator from Saskatchewan Wheat Pool at Duck Lake to clean, split, bag and store the peas, while the Bellevue site continues to process whatever the Duck Lake facility can’t handle. Further expansion included the purchase of land adjacent to the elevator in Duck Lake in 2011 where the flour mill is now situated. The company perfected the technique of milling green, yellow and chickpea flour for the pet food industry and while this is not currently a big part of the business it does provide another option for maximizing the profit for the company. Today their product line contains whole and split green peas, yellow split peas, and chickpeas, flour from yellow, green and chickpeas, and fiber flour from yellow and green peas. In the future they would like to be able to mill flour for human consumption,
The reputation the Gaudet’s have worked so diligently to build and maintain have made the Belle Pulses brand a name that is known and trusted worldwide. That strong positive brand recognition is due to the quality of the product they ship. If the product is not of the quality they think their customers will be happy with, they won’t ship it. It’s that same commitment to quality their father demonstrated when he personally flew to Quebec and examined and cleaned 1,200 bags of peas a Montreal packager wanted to reject, and then sewed the now approved shipment back into bags.
The pulse industry has changed significantly in the province since Belle Pulses began operating. In the early days Tony remembers, they struggled to find enough peas. Planted acreage has increased in the province since then and while they still buy peas from every corner of the province, since 1989 demand has been steady for their product and they have three splitting lines which means they are running 24 hrs/day. Saskatchewan has become one of the leading producers of quality pulse crops. The improvements in plant breeding have resulted in better yields for farmers and a quality product to sell both domestically and internationally. The brothers see the future of pulses in Canada turning more and more to a domestic rather than an export market. Internationally there are many other players, and that export door can open and shut rapidly depending on the whim of foreign governments. As demand for pulses grows in Canada the Gaudet’s believe that consumers here will eventually consume most of what is produced.
When asked if they were aware that they were being considered for the award, Francis said that it came as a complete surprise. “It’s nice to be recognized,” Tony commented, then added that there have been a lot of people over the years who saw the vision. In 1979 they had 10 employees and one of those is still with them 42 years later as one of more than 50 who work together to ensure Belle Pulses remains synonymous with quality and customer satisfaction for years to come. In Tony’s words, “We’re home grown and we’re here to stay.”
Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Wakaw Recorder