Folks on the Farm: Drew Shanafelt

Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born and raised in Olympia, WA. I love playing almost every sport, though ultimate Frisbee and ice hockey are my favorites. This summer I met Bob and a few months later, moved to Big Sandy with my girlfriend Shae and our dog and two cats, to work for The Oil Barn®. Shae studied English education and is the high school English teacher here in Big Sandy. My passion is to improve the relationship between humans and the environment through improving our food system.

What is your position here in Big Sandy, Montana?

I am the General Manager of The Oil Barn®.

What are your overall responsibilities?

I am tasked with everything that is needed to run the business. Four months in, I am still learning what all is included in my responsibilities. In general, I do the books, sales, marketing, production planning, process improvement, maintenance, deliveries, and actually producing and packing the oil.

How did you become aware of Bob Quinn?

I become aware of Bob through my old neighbor, Bruce Maxwell. He was outside shoveling snow one day and I struck up a conversation with him. I told him I had just read a book; Lentil Underground, and he told me had helped Liz with the book. Then he told me about a new book she was working on with a guy named Bob Quinn, called Grain by Grain. I preordered the book, read it, and then met Bob for the first time at his book talk at MSU in Bozeman.

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

I love to learn new things. In this job, I have had to learn something new every day since I started. It is exciting to get to work in the morning and know that it is not going to be the same as yesterday, and I can learn and grow with the business.

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

I would love to grow The Oil Barn® by adding new products and services to provide more jobs in Big Sandy. In my education I learned a lot about continuous improvement, which I hope to apply to the operations here at The Oil Barn®.

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

I graduated Montana State University with a BS in industrial and management systems engineering. Throughout my education I was taught to use a systems approach to solving problems and designing systems. I would like to apply that perspective to Bob’s goals. In doing so I hope to help bring about a healthier food system for the planet and people. By doing so, helping Bob with another one of his goals; create many, local, well-paying jobs.

What do you enjoy about working for Bob?

Bob always encourages creative thinking/problem solving. It is very enjoyable to bounce ideas off Bob because he is very experienced in entrepreneurship and loves a fresh, creative idea.

Were you familiar with organic farming before working for Bob?

I was made aware of organic farming through a number of books, including One Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka, Second Nature by Michael Pollan and Lentil Underground by Liz Carlisle. All of these books taught me about organic farming and led me to Grain by Grain and to Bob.

What are your thoughts on organic farming?

I think regenerative organic farming is an imperative step to create an equitable food system. A food system built on regenerative organic practices with a focus on offering local season food to eaters has innumerable benefits—fair wages for farmers, regeneration of our soils, carbon sequestration, healthy food, reduced chronic disease, stronger local economies and communities, and it will create a closer relationship between consumers and their food. These areas of benefit are all current detriments to our existing food system, and I hope to help people see the need to transition and help provide an easy path to do so.

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

Absolutely. I can’t think of a more worthy cause to which to dedicate my time. Food is often overlooked. I know because, to me, food used to be an afterthought. Now that I work with farmers in the food system, I see how important it all is. As an essential part of being alive, healthy food should be a priority to everyone due to the vast implications food has on our lives.