Centennial Farm: 100 Years of Quinn Farm & Ranch

One hundred years ago, on June 12th, my grandfather Emmet Quinn married Alice McAnelly in Fort Benton. The newlyweds moved to a small wheat and cattle ranch bordering the McAnelly place. It was a 320-acre parcel originally homesteaded by John Russell in 1916, but by 1920 he was gone and so began Quinn Farm & Ranch on Little Sandy Creek about 10 miles southeast of Big Sandy, Montana. They raised two boys and expanded the place to nearly 1,500 acres by the time Emmet retired in 1948. He had about 50 head of polled Herford cattle and a smaller portion of the ranch was farmed. He was an innovator and one of the first in the neighborhood to buy a new pull-type combine and small tractor that ran on tracks rather than wheels. This put an end to his participation in a long harvest with many of the neighbors using a stationary thrashing machine that was moved from farm to farm, requiring a big crew of men. He raised mostly wheat and barley. He was also one of the first in the area to buy a radio in 1925 just after the first radio station in Montana went up in nearby Havre.

My father Mack and his brother Joe, took over the ranch in 1948. In a couple years Joe left for a very successful career with the Federal Land Bank. My sister and I were raised on the ranch, which had expanded to 2,400 acres by the mid 1950’s. In the early 1950’s Dad was one of the first to adopt herbicides and start experimenting with chemical fertilizers. He was always trying new crops and increased the acres farmed by braking sod to the point that the place was half cultivated and half in pasture. He was one of the first to get a TV set in the fall of 1954 soon after the KFBB-TV station, the first in Montana, was built in Great Falls.

I returned to the home place in 1978 and farmed with my father for about 8 years before he officially retired. I raised my family there and started converting the farm to organic in 1986. We used our last chemical on the farm in 1988 and will soon have been farming using a regenerative organic system as long as we were farming using man-made chemicals following the industrial model. In 1986 we introduced an ancient khorasan wheat using the KAMUT trademark to the organic market and started growing it on our farm. After 40 years of farming myself, I decided to rent our farm to a couple of my employees and downsized my farming activity from 4,000 to 4 acres which surrounds the homestead. On those four acres, I grow almost all my own food and continue some experiments.

My grandparent’s direct descendants now number about 41 spanning 5 generations and when you add all the spouses and fiancés, we are up to about 60. Out of those, only Dad and Uncle Joe have passed away. It was our hope to gather as many of the 58 remaining relations as possible to celebrate the 100 anniversary of the founding of our farm and ranch. We first scheduled it for the 100th year of my grandparent’s wedding anniversary on June the 12th. But as shut downs and uncertainty multiplied we postponed it until Labor Day weekend. And now, because things are not improved, we have moved the celebration again to June 12 of 2021. My sister and I got together on June 12th this year to mark the occasion but our big get-together will now be celebrating 101 years of Quinn Farm & Ranch next year.