The Stratford Kiwanis Garlic Festival was founded in 2007 as a cooperative effort between the Kiwanis Club of Stratford and local garlic growers to promote Ontario garlic which was struggling to gain a foothold in the Canadian market dominated by cheap imported garlic from China.
Stratford's festival was patterned after the original Garlic Festival founded by Don Christopher in Gilroy, California. He is known as the 'garlic king' for turning the much-maligned bulb of garlic into a staple, while elevating the sleepy town of Gilroy, California into the Garlic Capital of the World.
Local garlic growers believe that the Stratford Kiwanis Garlic Festival helped the local garlic industry make a comeback from its near extinction in the early 2000's. Warren Ham, the garlic grower who co-founded the festival was quoted in a story in the Beacon Herald (Sept. 11, 2017) indicating that "by the year 2000, the acres of farmland used to produce garlic in Ontario had declined significantly from 6,000 to 300 acres. But he noted that this dying industry had experienced a resurgence over the past decade in Ontario and that comeback was closely related to the creation of events such as the Stratford Kiwanis Garlic Festival."
Now the Ontario garlic industry is facing another problem: the demand for locally grown garlic has increased to the point where many more acres of garlic need to be cultivated to meet the demand. The organizers of the Stratford Kiwanis Garlic Festival will continue to support smaller garlic growers and encourage growth in this industry.
Since its inception in 2007, all the proceeds from the Stratford Kiwanis Garlic Festival, totalling approximately $110,000, have been reinvested by the Kiwanis Club of Stratford in local charitable projects.