November 4, 2019 | 59 minutes, 38 seconds
Is American Farming Broken?
Bob Quinn is an organic ancient grain farmer In Montana. He has been farming organic khorasan (kamut) wheat for more than 30 years and has inspired many farmers to transition to organic farming.
Quinn’s Montana wheat farm has been in his family for almost 100 years and he has seen firsthand the dangers of the industrial agricultural machine producing cheap food.
In his new book, Grain by Grain, he tells his story and the story of many farmers who struggle to make ends meet.1 Is American farming broken? This is one of the questions I ask Bob in our podcast interview.
“It is extremely fragile,” he responded. Multinational agricultural chemical companies have created a serf system, he explains, where the royalty are the chemical companies and the serfs are the farmers—100% dependent on chemical companies for survival.
Instead of crop rotation and diversity, seed harvesting, fertilizing cover crops, and employing strain variety to protect against the elements, chemical companies force farmers to specialize in one strain of one crop. So, instead of growing a variety of wheat or crop strains, they grow only one, depending on designer chemicals to offset the newest insect, weed, drought, or cold snap. If they fail, the crop is a 100% loss.
Old-school farmers had livestock for their families, like chickens, cows, pigs, and goats, as well as big vegetable gardens and fruit orchards. Today, you are either a corn, wheat, or soy farmer, for example, and you get your food not from the garden, orchard, or root cellar, but from the local grocery.
- From 1950-97, more than two million American farms disappeared.1
- From 1960-70, the American farming population reduced by 25%.1
Is US Government Really Supporting Farmers?
The general population has been told that farmers receive subsidies so they can make ends meet and feed us, but the reality is that government farmer subsidies only cover the cost of chemicals farmers are forced to use on their crops. Money farmers receive from the government is coincidentally about the same amount they have to pay for chemicals. Subsidies are not really for the farmer. That money goes in and out of the farmer’s checkbook, right into the hands of chemical companies.
The government has us believing they are supporting farmers, yet, in truth, our tax dollars are lining the pockets of multinational chemical companies, which are destroying American farmers and processing crops into high-volume, shelf-stable, cheap food.
The Cost of Cheap Food: Our Health
Cheap food in grocery stores throughout America may be the primary reason why 45% of us have at least one chronic disease2 and we rank as 34th healthiest nation in the world, with a health grade of 73% or C-!3
We are what we eat. Farmers like Bob Quinn are trying to change the narrative and rescue our farmers from chemical corporations.
Don’t miss this engaging interview with maverick organic ancient grain wheat farmer Bob Quinn.
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Bob Quinn was raised on a family-operated wheat and cattle ranch southeast of Big Sandy, Montana. He earned a BS in botany in 1970 and a MS in plant pathology in 1971 from Montana State University . He received a PhD in plant biochemistry at UC Davis in 1976. After selling his business interests in a biological research and testing laboratory in Woodland, California, which he and a friend started in 1974, he returned home to run the family farm and ranch.
In 1983, Bob started Montana Flour & Grains, Inc., originally in an effort to market his own grain directly to bakeries. The business soon expanded and became a viable market opportunity for many other farmers. In 1984, he started selling organic grain and a stone flourmill was added to the operation.
In 1986, Montana Flour & Grains introduced to the natural food industry an ancient grain similar to durum wheat. This grain was grown only organically and marketed under his own brand name, Kamut, (see kamut.com for a description of this project) and now over 4500 different Kamut-brand products are marketed throughout the world, providing a new crop for over 250 organic farmers. Bob sold Montana Flour & Grains in 1999. Over the years, his farm has increased to 3400 cultivated acres and 600 acres of pasture. In recent years, he has started two more enterprises connected to the farm: the Oil Barn, which produces high-oleic safflower oil, and Big Sandy Organics, which produces Kracklin’ Kamut ancient wheat snacks.
In 2001, he and two partners formed WindPark Solutions America, which is responsible for Montana’s first large-scale wind farm of 90 turbines, totaling 130 megawatts. This wind farm was sold to Invenergy in 2005.
In 1986, Bob planted his first organic-certified crop on his own farm and was farming the entire farm organically by 1989. He works closely with Montana State University personnel testing cropping systems as well as different crops, including dry land vegetables for local markets grown without irrigation, unusual in the semi-arid portion of the upper Great Plains. He also has a small orchard to study berries and fruit trees. He continues to study and improve farming systems, which may be adapted to the northern plains and provide a substitute for conventional chemically derived fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, summer fallow, and diesel fuel.
Bob is 71 and has been married for 48 years. He and his wife, Ann, have four daughters, one son, and 18 grandchildren.
In April 2018, he rented out his farm to two employees so that the next generation could have their turn on the land. He still promotes organic and sustainable agriculture, locally produced food and fuel, as well as the idea that food should be our medicine and medicine our food. He also promotes food production systems based on high nutrition and quality, rather than high yields, and works hard warning of the dangers of GMO-based food.
He has written a book, Grain by Grain, with Liz Carlisle, which summarizes his philosophy of the tie between agriculture, food, and health. After a book tour in 2019, he plans to retire with the 100-year celebration of Quinn Farm and Ranch and create a 600-acre research center there.
Connect with Bob:
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