KAMUT® Wheat Tabbouleh

Tabbouleh is a middle-eastern dish I first remember eating in a Turkish restaurant in London some years back. Since then, it has become one of my favorite dishes to make for a number of reasons. Perhaps the most obvious: it’s tasty! But it’s also made almost entirely from ingredients we grow right here on the farm, including our KAMUT® wheat bulgur. I encourage you to give this unique recipe a try and let me know what you think.

And for more delicious KAMUT® grain recipes like this one, be sure to visit Kamut International’s website.

1 cup KAMUT® wheat bulgur
2 tablespoons The Oil Barn® safflower oil (can also use olive oil)
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 cup diced tomatoes
½ cup sliced green onion

Place bulgur in a large bowl. Pour 2 cups of boiling water over bulgur and let soften for 30 minutes. The bulgur will absorb most of the liquid.

In large bowl whisk together safflower oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Drain bulgur in a strainer and add to dressing. Add parsley, tomatoes, and green onion, and toss well to cover evenly. Bon appétit!

A Pellet at a Time: Experimenting with Compost

Earlier this year, while seeding our safflower and KAMUT® wheat, we mentioned adding something called COMPELL compost pellets to several acres of these two crops. In my experience, each farm is as individual as the farmer who works on it, so a promising new idea being tested elsewhere may produce completely different results on our farm. And that’s what we’re testing here.

If you’ve ever spread compost in your backyard garden, you already know it’s hard work and those bags you picked up at your local greenhouse add up quickly. Because most gardens are small and the value of the crops are high, the investment in compost is worth it. However, while spreading 10 tons of compost per acre on a wheat field may provide a big boost to the wheat, this boost also comes at a huge economic loss. So, when my friend Tom called to say he had a new product—compressed compost pellets—which could be placed right with the seed at a rate of about 40 pounds per acre and show both agronomic and economic benefits, I was immediately interested.

Rather than applying prior to seeding, by spreading over the top of the soil, these pellets are actually put into the drills and seeded along with the crops. This is potentially beneficial in several ways. Perhaps the most obvious benefit is time since the compost pellets can be applied at the same time we’re seeding. It’s also far less product to purchase and handle overall; we only needed a few pounds of compost pellets per acre, versus the tons per acre that would have been required with the surface application of regular compost.

But I think one of the most interesting aspects of this compost pellet idea is the potential benefit for each individual seed. If we were to spread compost over an entire field, it certainly would be beneficial for the crop but it wouldn’t hurt the weeds either. By planting the compost pellets with the seeds, each plant has immediate access to the higher nutrition before the weeds get a chance to elbow in and the additions to the microbiological component is also right where the germinating seed can use it.

This year we split a few fields of safflower and KAMUT® grain into a handful of plots to which we applied varying rates of the compost pellets—between 0, 20, 40 and 80 pounds per acre. As with any good experiment, the variation gives us a good idea of what will potentially work best for us here on the farm. The company we purchased the pellets from has seen the most success with a 40-pound per acre application rate and for our KAMUT® grain we would agree, though we were a little disappointed the results were not more dramatic. The Kamut grain at the 40-pound application rate saw an increase of 8%, which did pay for the application but was quite a bit lower than had been seen in other years on other wheat fields. This year, however, may have been a bad one to experiment with due to all the unusual rain which produced so much disease. We are interested enough to continue our experiment another year with the KAMUT® wheat fields. Our safflower field, however, did not seem effected by the compost pellets at all and we saw no benefits, regardless of the rate.

Rest assured, we will be sure to keep you updated as we learn more.

Bin to Barn: Growing Pains at The Oil Barn®

You may recall The Oil Barn® added a couple new bins this past year. The additional bins have allowed Andrew to conveniently store more of the bulk of his clean, ready-to-crush safflower seed right there beside the barn rather than wherever there’s available space on the farm. And he really couldn’t have chosen a better year to do it, considering the harvest we pulled in this last season was the best ever for us.

The original bins were connected to the barn using flex augers. These small augers, which look like long pvc pipes, would automatically refill the seed containers over the presses inside the barn as they got low. My son-in-law is really quite clever. But adding the two new bins to the operation turned into more of a challenge than we’d expected.

Because the previous system had worked so well, the plan was to connect the new bins to the original two. But if I’ve learned nothing else about trying something new, the first try is rarely the last. Such was the case here. The flex augers were having a hard time keeping up with the additional pressure and began to back up, spilling safflower seed everywhere. Andrew’s not one to give up so easily and he continued to work on it, trying different connections, motors and layouts—all around regular production and deliveries—until this past fall he came up with a brand-new setup that works. By this time, he’d had to completely reinvent the wheel, so to speak. Even the original two bins had been integrated into this new system, which actually runs off one of his old press motors.

Automating the seed crushing process in the barn has numerous benefits: Our safflower oil production is more consistent, with less room for human error. And, since it’s still basically a one-man show with my grandson, Bryce, lending a hand, this gives Andrew more time to focus on sales and marketing, rather than manufacturing. And it’s just nice not having to move thousands of pounds of safflower seed from one place to another more than once, whether it’s between bins or to the presses.

The resulting automated layout is a success and a step forward as The Oil Barn® continues to grow.

A New Year: 2017 Resolutions

They say the key to committed and successful goal-making is to write them down, review them often and share them with others. Here at Quinn Farm & Ranch, goals are what propel us to a greater understanding of our land, our businesses, and our own individual expectations. Goals are something everyone can relate to, whether you’re an organic farmer near Big Sandy, Montana or an urban gardener in New York City. Goals can direct us to better ourselves and the world around us. Successful businesses and individuals make goals a priority and we’re no different here.

Each year we gather around our kitchen table for our first bi-weekly planning meeting of the year over a stack of warm KAMUT® grain sourdough pancakes and list what we want to achieve in the coming year. It’s one of my favorite meetings of the year, if for no other reason than the sense of optimism and possibility.

My main focus for 2017 is to find a farm mechanic to add to our team here in Big Sandy. I am also working on establishing a permanent research center on the farm. And I hope to complete several book and video projects concerning the first 30 years of the KAMUT® grain story.

One of my farm manager Seth’s annual goals is a set date to complete spring seeding. If you’re a farmer, or even a gardener, you know that planting times can make all the difference. If you plant too early and the ground is still too cold, you risk a low germination, or growth, rate and higher weed competition. But if you wait too long, you risk running out of moisture. Moisture and weed management are key to dryland farming here in northern Montana, so we work hard to meet this goal. Obviously, we’re at the mercy of the weather, but there’s always the hope that there will be enough dry days in the spring to plant and enough rain in the early summer to grow. Seth is also looking at increasing the diversity of our crops a little more this year.

My produce manager, Charley, is gearing up to jump into a little local public relations for our orchard and dryland vegetables. The idea is to create awareness of the farm as a producer of more than just wheat. By getting involved in community events, Charley will have the opportunity to not only involve local friends and neighbors on the farm, but to educate them about the benefits of food sovereignty as well as sustainable, organic agriculture. He is also looking to expand our local dryland vegetable and seed production market with the goal to make these enterprises more self-sufficient this year. And he made a lot of progress toward this goal last year.

Our newest addition to the farm crew, Chad, has extensive experience with and interest in cattle. And for the first time in 32 years, Quinn Farm & Ranch is looking to add cows back into our operation. This time they will be a part of our organic crop rotations and organic research. We’ll be sure to keep you posted as this idea moves forward.

It’s no surprise that my son-in-law, Andrew, at The Oil Barn® has seen a continual increase in interest for our cold-pressed, hi-oleic, organic safflower oil. It’s a great product! Keeping up with demand, however, has been a challenge. Every year we’ve used the seed from each harvest with very little to spare. Thankfully, this last year was the best we’ve ever had for our safflower. So Andrew’s aiming to increase production to better meet both our loyal customer’s current needs as well as new interest. So if you haven’t tried it, now’s the time!

And last, but certainly not least, the manager for our Kracklin’ Kamut® organic snack, Thomas, is approaching his first full year with the Big Sandy Organics company. He has big plans, including a larger facility, support staff, and increasing consumer availability. Once you’ve tried it, you’ll understand the appeal, as well as the demand. I also understand we may see some new flavors in the coming months, so be sure to check back for updates.

Overall, 2017 is looking to be a very productive year. So, stay tuned.

Ancient KAMUT® Grain & Pomegranate Dessert

Each December my daughter, Allison, and her family come to the farm to celebrate Christmas Eve with a traditional Bethlehem dinner. Much of the meal includes simple foods, such as hummus and lentils. But for dessert, we came up with this, which I hope you enjoy as much as we do.

Main Ingredients:
½ cup KAMUT® grain
2 cups pomegranate seeds

Syrup Ingredients:
2 cups apple cider
2 tablespoons sour cherry juice

Soak KAMUT® grain in water for 24 hours and then boil for 30 minutes—you should end up with about 1 cup of cooked grain. Remove seeds from 1 large pomegranate. Combine KAMUT® grain and pomegranate seeds.

If you can’t find sour cherry juice or don’t want to make your own syrup, you can use a red wine syrup. I wanted to use products we’d grown here on the farm, so I made my own syrup by simmering the apple cider and sour cherry juice for about 1½ to 2 hours until there’s about 2/3 cup remaining.

Apply approximately 1 tablespoon of syrup to each ½ cup serving of the KAMUT® grain and pomegranate mixture and enjoy!

This Time a Century Ago: Looking Back and Moving Forward

For me the end of a year is always a good time for reflection. I often remember my Grandfather Quinn quoting the old timers as saying “how good the crops were in ’16 (meaning 1916) and how good they were going to be next year.” They were, by nature, optimistic. 1916 was the high point of the homestead era here in Big Sandy (1911-1919). The town approached a population of 1500! You chuckle, but it’s around 500 today. The farmers had both good crops and good prices that year. Whereas the three years that followed, persistent drought brought bankruptcy to most of the homesteaders, as crops did not return enough to replace the seed that had been planted. Many farming families, completely broke, just left their land with little more than the clothes on their back and a few items they could pack in a wagon or small vehicle. By 1920, when my grandfather arrived, the population of the town had crashed to around 600—about two-thirds of the farmers had left—and farms could be purchased by paying little more than the back taxes on the land.

It is ironic how 100 years later, this area was blessed with higher-than-average rain fall resulting in the best crop our farm has seen in twenty years. Although there were good crops this year for the most part, the big difference between this year and the “boom” of 1916 was the price of wheat. The prices for wheat this year were lower than they had been for the past several years and even with a big crop, many farmers were not able to pay their chemical bills. A silver lining for us, however, was that organic grain prices were sky-high—sometimes 5 times that of non-organic prices! High prices coupled with high yields made for a very prosperous year, indeed, for organic farmers. And even though some of the highest prices have come down some, there is still an ever-increasing demand for organic which keeps the prices strong. While organic farmers now only consist of 1% of the farming population, the sales of organic groceries now exceed 5% of total food sales in the US. It remains the fastest growing segment of agriculture, which is great news for organic farmers and promising news for farmers looking to transition.

So, the question for the future is: Will we see a repeat of the disaster years of 1917 to 1920—when more farmers went broke than in any other time in American history? I certainly hope not! And while we cannot change or control the weather to guarantee timely rains, farmers do have the opportunity to look to the future. The transition to organic production can start now! Organic agriculture immediately reduces input costs and increases the value of production. Many are already making this change and many more are seriously considering it. It is my hope that we will not repeat the hardships of those fateful years a century ago where farmers lose their lands and we lose our friends and neighbors. I hope, as is my hope every year, that we will see more farmers recognize the benefits of organic agriculture and begin to prosper again.