The Organic Revolution: The Future of Food for the World

When I was young, the world was a buzz with the prospects of the “Green Revolution”—a movement intended to feed the world through the industrialization of agriculture with the promise of higher yields using large inputs of chemical fertilizer and pesticides. The Green Revolution officially began after World War II, was first characterized in 1968, and Normal Borlaug is credited as the father of this movement. The original focus was India, where famine and food shortages were almost a way of life.

If you focus solely on the total increase in production, you would say the Green Revolution was a rousing success. But if you look closer, there are more questions than answers. More hidden costs of cheap and plentiful food that promoters of this system don’t like to discuss. The long-term problems associated with this high-input, unsustainable, artificial system are starting to cast a deepening shadow over the short-term advantages.

Questions regarding the unintended costs of the Green Revolution, and the adoption of alternative, more sustainable agricultural systems, began as very small, isolated voices soon after the movement was heralded as the future of mankind. In recent years, these small voices have grown in number and volume, becoming a large and significant chorus from all around the world—a new revolution. And interestingly enough, talk of this new “Organic Revolution” is strongest in India—the very country targeted as the cradle of the Green Revolution from my youth.

Very recently, mid-summer this year, the German TV broadcaster, ZDF, aired a story they had co-produced about the paradigm shift of agriculture in India. The program included a story about the first 100% organic state in India—all 65,000 farmers were converted to organic! The nearby country Bhutan is still working on a similar goal, which will make it the first country in the world to be 100% organic! Another federal state in India, Uttarakhand, has also made the commitment to convert to 100% organic. There are 1.6 million farmers in Uttarakhand! Earlier this summer, the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh announced its intent to convert all farmers to 100% pesticide free, which is very close to organic. In total, just in India, we’re talking about 6 million organic farmers! This is not just a paradigm shift but an agricultural revolution—or perhaps a better term might be “evolution,” as it must continue to evolve if it is to be sustainable.

But what is driving this Organic Revolution? I believe it has the same drivers all over the world—the high cost of producing, processing and eating cheap food. (More on the high cost of cheap food, feeding the world using regenerative organic agriculture and the reduction of food waste to come.) The goal of the Green Revolution was to feed the people of the world; the goal of the Organic Revolution is to nourish the people of the world and heal the earth where we live.

Join me and the millions of voices—farmers, gardeners, consumers and businesses—who believe in nutritious, sustainable food, for today and for the future. Support the Organic Revolution and take control of your health. #organicrevolution

Folks on the Farm: Trevor Wilkerson

Trevor Wilkerson Oil Barn General Manager

Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Trevor Wilkerson. I grew up in Utah and I’ve lived in Montana seven years but I’ve also lived in Idaho, Arizona and other places in the west. I served a mission in Brazil for two years and studied Electrical and Computer Engineering with a math minor at BYU in Provo. I also took a few business and accounting classes in high school.

What is your position here in Big Sandy, Montana?

I’m the general manager at The Oil Barn® and the bookkeeper for several of Bob’s local enterprises, including Sand Coulee Farm & Ranch, which leases land from Bob, and Big Sandy Organics® (Kracklin’ Kamut®).

What are your overall responsibilities?

As the general manager, I make sure that we have enough oil for our customers. I make sure we have growers that are growing seed for the coming years harvest. And I make sure the seed is in good quality, which includes having the appropriate lab tests done. I track whether it’s too high in free fatty acids for our cooking vendors, and that it’s high enough in oleic acid for our soap manufacturers. And I make sure we have enough bottles, containers and supplies to keep The Oil Barn® going.

How long have you worked with Bob?

I’ve been working for Bob and his enterprises for a year as of this month. I started as the bookkeeper for Big Sandy Organics®, Quinn Farm & Ranch, and a couple of Bob’s smaller local entities. Then I started working with Andrew at The Oil Barn® as a sort of assistant, cleaning seed and filters and things like that. So I learned a lot of The Oil Barn® processes before Bob’s son-in-law, Andrew, left in April.

How did you become aware of Bob Quinn?

About ten years ago, I met Jerry Taylor—Bob’s daughter, Allison’s, husband—at church in Helena, Montana. I became good friends with Jerry and his family and a little over a year ago they’d mentioned that Bob was hiring a bookkeeper here in Big Sandy. So I applied and got the job.

What’s your favorite part of your job so far?

I like that it’s all organic. I like the rural community, the small-town feel. And the people I work with are great.

What sort of changes or additions would you like to make in your current position, and why?

I would like to develop a way to make “organic” as economic as possible, while still maintaining the quality our customers have come to expect in what is really a healthy, excellent product.

What goals do you hope to help Bob achieve in your work?

To strive to be profitable, I think is always a goal for a growing business. But we also want to be able to provide more jobs here in Big Sandy. And, of course, enjoy the work.

Did you grow up on a farm?

My dad was a farm mechanic in Roosevelt, Utah, so everything he fixed was tractors and trucks for local farmers and ranchers. But that was as close to agriculture as I got growing up.

What do you enjoy about working for Bob?

Bob has a great attitude! He’s upbeat and personable and he cares about what you’re doing. He’s also quick to share fresh fruits and veggies from his garden, orchard and dryland plots, which is always a bonus.

Were you familiar with organic farming before working for Bob?

Not specifically. I’d read about organic farming a bit and I’ve done some of my own research. But I hadn’t known anything about organic agriculture until I’d met Jerry and Allison about ten years ago and they started to introduce me to things.

What are your thoughts on organic farming?

Frankly, I think it’s the only way to farm. I think that if you do it any other way you’re not being a good steward of the land, which is something Bob mentions in his business mission statements. I try to buy as much organic as possible, not only to support the organic economy but to promote my own personal health; if it’s organic I don’t have to worry about what I’m eating.

In conclusion, has working with organic farmers changed your perceptions about farming and food supply?

Yeah. With my initial introduction to organic ten years ago, it’s become a key part of my outlook on health. I knew organic farming was good. But I didn’t realize how much effort went into organic farming or understand the practical application of how it all came together—with the green manure crops and everything. So that’s where I think I’ve learned a lot here and from Bob’s blog articles. It’s been really good to learn more about those practices.

Wheat for the World: Remembering the First International Conference of Wheat Landraces

First International Conference of Wheat Landraces

The First International Conference of Wheat Landraces for Healthy Food Systems is now history—an idea that came to life 3 years ago was finally realized in Italy at the thousand-year-old University of Bologna. (Check out my opening address below for the whole story of how this historical event began.) We had 125 delegates from countries all over the world in attendance and it was enormously satisfying to see the conference come together with so many people who brought so much to educate and inspire us.

For the first time, we brought together researchers, farmers, millers and bakers from all over the world, with an interest in wheat landraces and health. We had the great pleasure to hear from 28 guest speakers, as well as 24 presenters—that’s a lot of shared information! So many amazing people made this idea a reality but one in particular deserves special tribute: our conference coordinator, Emanuela. She worked tirelessly to pull the conference together and make it the success we enjoyed earlier this month.

The conference exceeded my expectations in every way. It was a bonus that it was also great fun! Over the course of the three-day conference, we achieved several goals (as seen on the conference website). Here are a few:

  • “We had the opportunity to exchange ideas and during our field day, we were able to view many of the wheat landraces growing side by side that were sent in by the delegates.
  • New ideas and thoughts were stimulated especially during our open session discussing ideas for definition of terms common to our work but not well defined.
  • We voted overwhelmingly (more than 90%) to have another conference in 2 years and to unite our efforts throughout the world by creating a new association.”

This incredibly memorable event was the third on my final checklist of big projects to complete before I retire. It’s a three-year retirement plan and I’m only 6 months into the first year. Not bad! The other two projects I’ve completed are the successful release of our KAMUT® story film (coming soon!) and leasing our family farm to the next generation of organic farmers. Each project has come with its own sense of achievement and satisfaction but I think it’s both the scientist and the wheat farmer in me that relishes the success of this conference. The opportunity to learn and share from people all over the globe is unparalleled. But perhaps one of my favorite parts of this experience is that all that information—every inspiring speaker, every presentation and discussion—is available to anyone anywhere in the world. If you want a glimpse into the future of healthy food production—and an alternative to industrial agriculture and processing—I invite you to check out the website, watch the videos and join us in the movement for healthy #wheatfortheworld.

New Hope Network – Amazing Grains: What’s Ancient is Now New

“The re-emergence of so-called ancient grains, including pseudo grains such as quinoa and amaranth, are pushing into the mainstream market, turning the amber waves of grain into a multi-hued tsunami. The rise of old wheat varieties is also contributing to the growing tidal wave, spilling into related issues of sustainability, organics and regenerative agriculture.

Our ability to feed the world and nurture the planet need not be mutually exclusive. Wouldn’t it be amazing if grains were part of the solution that helps cure the human health epidemic and nourishes the Earth in the process? In other words, can we have our organic cake and eat it, too?”

Download this free report to learn more here.

Allison’s Garden-Fresh Salsa

With the weather finally starting to feel like spring, I think fresh fruits and veggies are on everybody’s mind. Maybe that’s why May is also National Salsa Month? Whatever the reason, my eldest daughter, Allison, makes a deliciously mild fresh salsa to help satisfy those fruit and vegetable cravings.

A good homemade salsa can be used for more than a rejuvenating afternoon snack or evening appetizer. You can add it to your favorite omelet in the morning or even use it as a fresh alternative to salad dressing. I myself use it as a flavorful topping over boiled Painted Mountain corn, which we grow here on the farm. Covered with my favorite organic cheese, I pop the whole thing in the oven until the cheese has melted and voila!

However you use your salsa, I think you’ll really enjoy this Quinn family favorite.

Allison’s Garden-Fresh Salsa

3 large ripe tomatoes
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1-3 garlic cloves, minced
2-3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lime juice
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons oregano
1 tablespoon vinegar

Combine onion, garlic and fresh cilantro. Add lime juice, sugar, salt, cumin, oregano and vinegar. Mix well. Remove seeds and chop tomatoes to desired thickness. Chill at least 2 hours to blend flavors.

For a thinner, restaurant style salsa, do not remove tomato seeds and use a food processor or blender.

A Farmer Forever: Letting Go and New Beginnings

More than 50 years have elapsed since I graduated from Big Sandy High School and 42 years since I finished my college education. But it was 40 years ago that my wife and I, and our 3 daughters (at the time), moved back to the family farm where both my father and I were raised. It’s hard to believe that in just two years’ time, the farm will celebrate its 100th anniversary—one hundred years since the marriage of my grandparents, Emmet and Alice Quinn in 1920, when they started the farm, and their family, together. For me, 2018 marks the beginning of a series of transitions, passing on many of the opportunities, from which I have benefited, to the next generation.

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to be a part of many businesses and ventures: Quiger Laboratory and Valley Toxicology in California, WindPark Solutions America here in Montana, and Montana Flour and Grains. And more currently: Kamut International, The Oil Barn®, Big Sandy Organics (Kracklin’ Kamut®), and of course, Quinn Farm and Ranch, all here in my hometown of Big Sandy, Montana. Each unique enterprise gave me the opportunity to make my mark and I look forward to turning them over to the next generation of good people. Currently, I am four months into my three-year transition to retirement—which may sound like a long time, but there’s still a lot to do. And I can’t really just give someone two-weeks’ notice.

The first phase of my retirement transition took place in April, which involved the bittersweet lease of my family farm to two bright and energetic young men: my former farm manager, Seth Goodman, and Chad Fasteson. Both, as you know, have been working with me for a few years and I have tried to teach them everything I know about organic farming on the northern great plains. I know they will do a great job and that they, and their families, will continue to enrich the community I still call home.

This particular transition, as I mentioned, is bittersweet. Taking a step back from the farm when it’s been such a central part of my life for so many years is quite hard. But it’s also a great joy to see young families join the community with the same enthusiasm of youth that I remember having when I returned home all those years ago. I look forward to the next three years and I will, of course, continue to keep you posted with each phase of my retirement transition—large and small.

For now, please join me in wishing Seth and Chad the very best as they begin their own organic farming endeavor as partners in their Sand Coulee Farm and Ranch enterprise.