Stubble, Stalks & Snow Fences: Keeping Moisture in the Fields

It should come as no surprise that moisture is always a concern in dryland farming, most especially on the semi-arid plains of northern Montana. During the spring, we pray for steady, frequent rains—heavy downpours or cloud bursts can bring rain down faster than the soil can absorb. (Though, it should be said, since our conversion to organic, the water absorption in our fields has increased!) During the winter, we pray for snow. Snow insulates our winter crops from the bitter cold and, of course, provides moisture when it melts in the spring. But on the wide-open prairie, snow will go where the wind takes it. Organic agriculture, at its most basic, is a farmer’s attempt at emulating nature. While there’s not much we can do about the rare torrential rainfall here on the farm, nature gives us clues on how to outsmart the wind and keep the snow that does fall on us—an important contributor to moisture for the next growing season—in our fields.

Here on the farm, there are grasslands as far as the eye can see in almost every direction. The prairie isn’t some barren desert. Grass provides resistance, it’s nature’s way of keeping both soil and moisture on the plains. Cultivated fields are not naturally occurring and if they are left completely bare, they offer no resistance against wind and water erosion. And no farmer wants to lose the soil that took thousands of years to accumulate.

Stubble—the short, dry stalks of the crop left in the field after harvest—provide excellent erosion resistance. Not only does stubble help protect the soil from wind and water erosion, it helps to keep at least some snowfall from blowing away. Which means more moisture in your fields come spring. And around here, that’s always good news!

But sometimes leaving stubble in a field isn’t an option. Sometimes cultivating a field in the fall is necessary. If we have a severe weed problem, for instance—we never want to let weeds to go to seed. Or, if we’re incorporating plants into the soil from a green manure field. In that case we will till the field as a normal part of our crop rotation. And while all the organic material, like leaves and stems, helps bind the soil together providing protection fromwind and water erosion, it doesn’t help much with snow catch. This past fall, Charley had some concerns along these lines. The field where he’ll be planting this year’s corn patch had been recently tilled to incorporate a cover crop of peas. There was little stubble on the surface, and after the dry season we had last summer, moisture was in short supply. But, as the old English proverb reminds us, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Charley’s solution was a few strategically-placed snow fences, and boy, did he pick a good year for that experiment! The snow fences are 4-feet tall and have nearly disappeared beneath all the snow we’ve received this winter.

Thoughtful preparations in the fall to catch snow can mean the difference of several inches of snow—or in our case this year, several feet! Here on the farm, last year’s corn patch, with its stalks still in the field, have more than a foot of snow. Whereas the neighboring field, which we tilled in the fall, has no more than a couple inches and in some places, you can see the soil. After such a dry season last year, I am very grateful for all the snow this winter and hope it will melt slowly and all soak in, providing lots of moisture for the coming spring.

Fresh Garden KAMUT® Chili

National Chili Day could not have come at a more opportune time. We have had an unusually cold and snowy winter, with snow drifts almost as tall as I am! But this fresh, simple chili recipe with a twist is enough to make any chilly day a little warmer. Instead of beans, we use softened KAMUT® wheat grain, which provides a unique texture and a satisfying meal. Give it a try and be sure to let me know what you think!

1 pound grass-fed ground beef
2 tablespoons butter
4 cups tomatoes, chopped (for this time of year, we like to use frozen peppers, onions and tomatoes from our garden)
1 red pepper, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 cup KAMUT® wheat grain, softened (soak grain overnight)
1 tablespoon chili powder
2-3 teaspoons ground cumin

Melt butter in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Sauté onions for about 5 minutes or until they begin to soften.

Add garlic and ground beef. Brown beef for about 8-10 minutes.

Add remaining ingredients, cover and reduce heat to a slow simmer.

Simmer for at least an hour.

Serve hot with a sprinkling of cheddar or a dollop of sour cream.

Big Plans!—A Sneak Peak at 2018

With just over two weeks already gone in 2018, I thought I’d share a sneak preview of what I expect will be a busy, productive year! Personally, I will be looking at some big changes as I start to wind down my active career over the next 3 years toward retirement. This includes finishing several projects in 2018 that have been ongoing for quite some time, including renting out the farm to two of my able employees, Seth and Chad.

One of the projects I’ve been working on for a few years is donating a part of our farm to establish an organic research institute. Last year I applied for a grant to help start the process and hope to hear about it by the end of the month. I’ve also been working on a documentary film about our farm, organic agriculture and the KAMUT® project, which will be premiering soon. (Stay tuned!) And by the end of the year I’m hoping to have finished a book describing what we’ve done to remove the value of wheat over the last half-century and what we can do to recover that value. This particular project means a great deal to me and I’ve found an excellent co-author to help me work a lifetime of experience into an informative first draft. Now we just have to find a publisher.

And, after years of planning and discussion, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t extremely excited about the First International Conference of Wheat Landraces for Healthy Food Systems this July in Bologna, Italy. I’m hoping it will attract participants from all over the world.

Naturally, there will be all the great food shows and conferences to attend, as well as lectures to speak at, mainly in North America and Europe. And there may be a few lobbying trips to Washington DC. (More on that later.) I will also continue to monitor our medical research comparing ancient and modern wheat in Italy, while launching a similar endeavor here in the states.

That said, I’m hoping to reduce my travel in favor of a few more skiing, fishing and camping adventures close to home with the grandkids, as well as participating in more of their events.

I have started this year the way I’ve started most years: full of hope, optimism and lots of big plans.

I’ll be sure to keep you posted as these plans develop and evolve over the coming months, so be sure to check back! I wish all of you a very happy, healthy and successful New Year and hope your plans and dreams will turn out as you hope.

KAMUT® Brand Khorasan Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies

Today is National Cookie Day! And what are the holidays without a big plate of fresh-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies and a tall glass of milk? Santa Claus isn’t the only one who enjoys a warm cookie or two in December! These egg- and dairy-free KAMUT® wheat cookies are an excellent option at my house when the grandkids come to visit. Give them a try and be sure to let me know what you think.

1/2 cup oil of choice (we, of course, recommend The Oil Barn® high-oleic, organic safflower oil)
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups rolled KAMUT® brand khorasan wheat flakes
1 cup KAMUT® brand khorasan wheat flour
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

In mixing bowl beat oil, syrup, water, and vanilla until emulsified. Combine flakes, chocolate chips, salt, and soda. Stir into syrup mixture and mix just until everything is evenly moistened. Let rest 5 minutes.

Drop onto baking sheets. Dough will be crumbly. Gently press dough so cookies hold together, should be about 1/3-inches thick. Bake at 350 degrees for 18 minutes.

For more delicious KAMUT® grain recipes, be sure to visit

Tuscan Vegetable Soup

I have the opportunity to travel to Italy fairly regularly and I always enjoy the tasty, satisfying local cuisine. One of my favorite things about Italian food is how easy it is to recreate so many of their delicious dishes right here on the northern plains of Montana.

Here at the farm this past season, we were blessed with bountiful vegetable yields that will last us the winter. And with winter just around the corner, what better way to put our fresh, organic veggies to use than a warm, flavorful soup?

1 onion
2 carrots
1 tomato
1 zucchini
4 garlic cloves
1 handful fresh parsley
2 Tablespoons The Oil Barn® safflower oil (can substitute with olive oil)
A pinch of dried chili flakes
10 sage leaves
1 1/2 cups cannellini beans, cooked
4 cups vegetable stock
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
Parmesan cheese

Dice the onion, tomato, and zucchini. Mince the garlic cloves. Chop the carrots. Remove the leaves from the parsley.

In a large saucepan, heat the safflower (olive) oil. Add the onion, carrots, chili flakes, and sage and cook over low heat for 20 minutes until softened but not browned. Add the parsley, tomato, and zucchini and cook for a few minutes.

Add the beans (drained, if canned), and cover with vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Season with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.

To serve, top with Parmesan cheese shavings and enjoy!

Farm-Fresh Homemade Apple Pie with KAMUT® Wheat Crust

As promised, after completing my delectably successful Old-Fashioned Service Berry Pie, I tried my hand at one of my favorite dessert pies—apple! What better way to celebrate National Apple Month and this delicious, versatile fruit?

Our prairie orchard did very well this year, producing hundreds of pounds of fresh, mouthwatering organic fruits. Several of our apple trees did particularly well, including our Goodland tree, which produced over 250 pounds of apples that we pressed into cider. And, for the first time, we had a nice crop of 30 or 40 apples on our Wolf River heirloom tree, from which the apples are the size of baseballs! The Wolf River apples are specifically intended for cooking and I only needed a few to make my apple pie. This tasty, homemade pie is Farm-to-Table at its best, give it a try and be sure to let me know what you think!


2 cups KAMUT® Wheat White Flour (I use fine-ground flour that I grind right there)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup water
1 cup shortening (I used organic lard)

Combine flour and salt. Take out 1/3 cup of the flour and salt mixture and add the water to create a paste. Set aside. Cut shortening (or lard) into the remaining flour and salt combination until pea size. Add paste mixture. Knead lightly then divide in half and roll out into two parts—one for the top and the other for the bottom of the pie.


1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup Whole-Wheat KAMUT® Flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
8 cups of apple slices
2 Tablespoons butter
1 egg white

Combine sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a large bowl. Mix in apple slices. Cut butter into small pieces. Pour apple mixture into pie plate and place butter pieces around the top. Cover with crust. Brush pie crust with part of a beaten egg white.

On the lowest oven rack, bake for 15 minutes at 425 degrees. Decrease the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the pie crust is browned on the top. For the last 10 minutes or so, cover with foil to prevent the crust from getting too dark. Place on a rack to cool and enjoy warm, à la mode!