Honors Presents: Masterclass with Dr. Robert M. Quinn - Back to the Future: Using Regenerative Organic Agriculture to Heal our Planet and Reconnect F
- Thursday, April 22, 2021 from 5:00pm to 6:30pm
- NAH 137 - Montana State University
*Please RSVP for this event*
Bob would like to use his book, Grain by Grain, as a spring board for a discussion based on the following ideas and observations: For the last few centuries, we have measured progress in terms of labor saving inventions and of efficiency in turning out products. We call the beginnings of this progress the industrial revolution. Agriculture has also been a part of this revolution starting with the invention of machines which could do the labor of many workers. In recent decades, however, the industrialization of agriculture has resulted in the lost of a majority of the family farms in America, the decline of rural communities and small towns, the pollution of our earth and an explosion of chronic disease which is mostly due to the decline in the nutrient quality of our food. Regenerative organic agriculture has the keys to solve most all of these problems. It is time to start measuring output of our farms by nutrition produced per acre rather than bushels or tons per acre. It is time to substitute resiliency and health for efficiency. It is time to focus on feeding the soil in plant production rather than just feeding the plant. It is time to begin to mediate climate chaos by sequestering carbon in the soil via cover crops and green manures rather that adding to the load of green house gasses through the production of synthetic fertilizers. It is time to consider food as our medicine and medicine as our food. It is time for regenerative organic agriculture.
Bob Quinn was raised on a 2,400 acre family operated wheat and cattle ranch south east of Big Sandy, Montana (USA) and is the son of Mack and Dorothea (nee Stammler) Quinn. He attended local schools and earned a BS in botany in 1970 and a MS in plant pathology in 1971 from Montana State University in Bozeman. He received a PhD in plant biochemistry at the University of California at Davis, California in 1976. After selling his business interests in a biological research and testing laboratory in Woodland, California which he and a friend started in 1974, he returned home to run the family farm and ranch in 1978.
In 1983 Bob started Montana Flour & Grains, Inc. (MFG) originally in an effort to market his own grain directly to whole grain bakeries. The business soon expanded beyond his own farm and became a viable market opportunity for many other farmers. In 1984 he started selling organic grain and a stone flourmill was added to the operation in 1985 the same year he sold his cattle to focus on MFG and marketing during the winter. In 1992 a cleaning plant was added and by that time 99% of products were organic. In 1995 the Montana SBA named Bob as the Small Business Exporter of the Year. In 1986 Montana Flour & Grains introduced to the natural food industry an ancient grain similar to durum wheat. This grain was grown only organically and marketed under his own brand name, Kamut, (see kamut.com for a complete description of this project) and now over 4500 different Kamut brand products are being marketed throughout the world providing a new crop for over 250 organic farmers in Montana, Alberta and Saskatchewan. Bob sold Montana Flour & Grains to the company’s Chief Financial Officer, André Giles in 1999. Over the years his farm has increased to 3400 cultivated acres and 600 acres of pasture. In recent years he has started 2 more enterprises connected to the farm, the Oil Barn which produces high-oleic safflower oil on the farm and Big Sandy Organics which produces Kracklin’ Kamut ancient wheat snacks in Big Sandy.
In 2001 he and two partners from Germany formed WindPark Solutions America which is responsible for the development of Montana’s first large scale wind farm of 90 turbines totaling 130 megawatts This wind farm was sold to Invenergy in 2005 who built and currently operates it near Judith Gap, Montana.
In 1986 Bob planted his first organic certified crop on his own farm and was farming the entire farm organically by 1989. He works closely with Montana State University personnel testing cropping systems as well as different crops, including dry land vegetables for local markets grown without irrigation which is unusual in the semi-arid portion of the upper Great Plains. He also has a small orchard to study berries and fruit trees best adapted to his area. He continues to study and improve farming systems on his own farm, which may be adapted to the northern plains and provide a substitute for the use of conventional chemically derived fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, summer fallow and diesel fuel.
Bob is active in his church and local community. He served on the local school board, is a member and past president of the local Rotary club and has served on advisory councils for the local schools, county extension, and university experiment station. He is 72 and has been married for 48 years. He and his wife, Ann, have four daughters, one son and 18 grandchildren.
Bob is a member of the Montana Grain Growers and the Montana Farm Bureau (FB). He is a past president of the Chouteau County FB and has served on the American FB's Wheat Committee and Grain Quality Committee. He is also an active member of Alternative Energy Resource Organization (AERO) in Montana and received AERO's Sustainable Ag Award in 1988. In 1993, he was named as one of Montana State University's 100 outstanding alumni from their first hundred years. Bob has been active in promoting organic and sustainable agriculture throughout the state, the nation and the world. He helped form Montana's first Organic Crop Improvement Association (OCIA) chapter in 1987 and served as its first president as well as on the OCIA International board of directors as secretary. He served on the first USDA National Organic Standards Board and has also served on a USDA agricultural research advisory committee as well as two of his congressman’s ag advisory committees. He served on Montana Department of Agriculture’s first organic certification advisory board. In 2007 he received a lifetime of service award from the Montana Organic Association. He has also been a member of the Organic Trade Association (OTA) since 1987 and is a member of their farm advisory committee (FAC) and in 2010, received their National Organic Leadership award. He has served on the board cf The Organic Center and as the chair of the science committee. In the fall of 2013 he received the national Organic Pioneer Award from the Rodale Institute in Pennsylvania. In 2016, he received New Hope’s Hall of Legends award. He is a member of IFOAM-Orgnics International and helped to form the IFOAM North American Regional group in 2015-16 and was elected to their first Broad of Directors.
He was involved with the effort to create a national voice for organic farmers for over 5 years and served on the steering committee of the newly formed Organic Famers Association (OFA) in America and from the fall of 2017 until the spring of 2018 severed on the first was policy committee and as a founding member of their board of directors.
In April of 2018 he rented out his farm to two of his employees so that the next generation could have their turn on the land. He still promotes organic and sustainable agriculture, locally produced food and fuel as well as promoting the idea that food should be our medicine and medicine should be our food. He also promotes food production systems based on producing high nutrition and quality rather than high yields and works hard warning of the dangers of GMO based food. He has written a book “Grain by Grain” with his co-author, Liz Carlisle (published by Island Press in March of 2019) which summarizes his philosophy of the tie between agriculture, food and health. After a nation wide book tour in March of 2020, he plans to complete his transition to retirement with the 100th year celebration of the establishment of Quinn Farm and Ranch June 12, 2020 and create a 600 acre research center in the middle of his farm.
The 5 accomplishments I am most proud of:
1. The introduction of a previously unknown ancient grain to the health food markets of the world under the Kamut brand name. see - Kamut.com
2. The sponsoring of research resulting in the publication of 35 peer reviewed scientific articles which compares the effect of ancient and modern wheat on humans especially those suffering from chronic disease - leading me to understand the teachings of Hippocrates 2300 years ago who said food should be our medicine and medicine our food - see research pages on Kamut.com
3. The conversion of the entire 2400 acre Quinn Family Farm, est by my grandfather in 1920, to a regenerative organic system in 1988 and working on improving the system ever since with ongoing research focusing on whole farm systems, growing vegetables in Montana without irrigation, establishing an experimental orchard on the prairie and growing all my own food. See blog and instagram at bobquinnorganicfarmer.com
4. To help revitalize my rural community near Big Sandy in North-central Montana by starting several businesses, Montana Flour & Grains (est 1983 in Fort Benton - see their web site) - Montana's first wind farm near Judith Gap in 2005, starting the Oil Barn (est 2008) on our farm to press and distribute organic high oleic safflower oil (see The Oil Barn web site) and starting Big Sandy Organics (see their web site) in Big Sandy, Montana in 2009 to produce a delicious healthy organic snack with our ancient wheat roasted in our safflower oil and sprinkled with a little sea salt.
5. Helping the nearby Rocky Boy Indiana reservation with their food sovereignty program to grow all their own food for the last 10 years focusing on crops like organically grown Kamut wheat (ground into whole grain flour on the reservation) and high resistant starch potatoes, both of which help mediate diabetes, a serious health problem on the reservation.
How am I trying to shape the food industry:
One of my main themes and the subject of my recent book, Grain by Grain, is the high cost of cheap food - how it is destroying farms and farmers, rural communities, polluting our environment, contributing to climate change and ruining the health of our people. If we will reconnect the link between food and health and focus on producing nutrient dense foods starting with the right seeds and using a regenerative system of organic agriculture we can be part of the solution to all the high costs of cheap food mentioned above. With the current health pandemic, there is more interest in this idea for strengthening our immune systems via good food to improve and preserve our health - so this concept is starting to gain momentum in every circle. In the last 35 years organic food in the market place has gone from near zero to about 6% and by maintaining the current rate of growth in the next 35 years, it can approach 100% - this will be the solution to so many of the most challenging problems facing our country.
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