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77. Bob Quinn | Quinn Organic Farm | Big Sandy, MT
Last week I interviewed Jennifer Hill-Hart from AERO (Alternative Energy Resource Organization) and when I mentioned my husband and my’s interest in biodiesel she recommended I get in touch with Bob Quinn. So I reached out to Bob and today he is here to share his story about his organic farm in Big Sandy!
The Research Center strives to explore cutting-edge ideas on the high plains of Montana. It is located on the Quinn Organic Farm in Big Sandy, Montana, within the famed Golden Triangle. The experiments are conducted on small acreage in an effort to determine how a farm family can make a comfortable living on fewer acres. Current experiments include oilseeds for fuel and lubricants, storage and fresh vegetables, crop rotations, green manures, and weed management.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I was raised here in Big Sandy on the 2400 acre wheat and cattle ranch that my grandfather started in 1920 and my father continued to farm between 1948 – 1978. He was here 30 years. I’ve been here since 1978 with my family, so we’re pushing 40 years here pretty quick. Starting about 1983, I started a flour mill in Fort Benton, with the purpose of marketing our hard red winter wheat and spring wheat crops directly to whole grain bakers in California.
We were just selling grain at the beginning. In 1984 we added organic grain that we bought from some organic farmers we found in North East corner of Montana. In 1985 we aded a flour mill. In ’88 we built our own cleaning plant, I had about 10 employees but it was about 50 miles away, so it was always a little bit of a management challenge because I still had my farm, I was farming full time. So finally sold it to an employee Andree Childs in 1999, he has expanded and done much better then I ever did, so I’m happy about that. I started converted to organic about 30 years ago starting experiments in 1985. Planted my first crop in 1986. I had my first 20 acre of certified grain in 1987. I was so excited about our experiments in 3 years transitioned the entire farm in 3 years, and by 1991 we were 100% certified organic and have been that way ever since! That’s gone very well for us. Very excited about it and excited to promote transition organic agriculture around Montana, the US, and around the world!!!
That give a little introduction. About the same time in 1985-6 started the ancient grain product we market under the trade mark of KAMUT®. That has grown to the point we now contract with about 150 gardeners in MT, Alberta, Saskatchewan for about 80,000 acres. We sell the grain all over the world. The trademark means it’s always grown organically. Most people who have trouble eating modern wheat, have no trouble eating Kamut brand grain products.
This is my son-in-law. How long have you been here? 4 years.
Tell the folks if you love it or not. Yeah it’s great!
Well I’m Jackie Beyer from the Organic Gardener Podcast
Holey Moley Hello Everyone!
Well Andrew came to me with an MBA not knowing anything about producing oil, and I said why don’t you try us out for a year, if you don’t like it you can go away with a business creation line on your resume and after 6 months he said he’s having more fun then any of his friends.
We supply University of Montana, MSU, Botany Soap, conversation with some other big companies, we also do business with Organic Valley, and a lot of other health food stores as well.
Another thing we do is we give back the waste oil and give it back from restaurants and university of food services and we clean it up, and Bob has converted one of his tractors to run off of that replace it from diesel.
High-oleic safflower, it’s the best kind of oil for your heart, and best kind for high temperature cooking, it doesn’t break down the trans-fats very fast. So it has a very long life. Some of our best customers said it increases oil life from 30-50% based on what they were using previously. It’s a little more expensive oil, actually costs them less because of their long life. We’re about to start bottling it and putting it in grocery stores in 750 and 500 mil bottles. In the future thinking about adding flavors to it.
Selling most of it in bulk. About a 1/3 to organic soap. 2/3 to mostly bulk, and most of those are the 2 big customers in Missoula and Bozeman on the big campuses there. Mostly in the food service. Everything you use oil to cook with, baking, salad dressings, anything you can use vegetable oil. Very mild to the taste, so it doesn’t cover up spices or anything else you cook with.
I use it for home for everything, instead of butter, I even put it on corn on the cob and everything. We started with about 40-50 acres and one press, and we can’t hardly keep up with demand.
How many presses do you have now Andrew?
We have 6 and looking at getting 2 more.
Andrew mentioned Organic Valley which means they are going to be taking all of the mash, leftover after we press, the leftover is called mash and contains about 22% protein, and 9% oil, really high feed value and the dairies are particularly interested in it.
Andrew just popped his head in the door! Anything else you want to say?
“Look for us in the stores, it’s called the Oil Barn.”
We had to get rid of the beef cows, we sold our cows, changed my cow barn into an oil barn. We had to redo the floors and everything to make it food grade and now it’s the Oil Barn.
Andrew and his wife, my daughter Bridget and their 3 little children now live in the home my parents did before they moved to Great Falls. And that makes a nice opportunity for us to see them and see the grandkids grow up! And provides him with a full time job, the Oil Barn is providing them a full time living! With the eye on expansion in the near future.
That was one of the things Jennifer and I talked about and how she started at AERO, debunking the myth that green jobs aren’t profitable and don’t provide jobs. I was telling her I taught in Browning for almost 4 years, I recently quit so I could do this, and stay home. But it drove me crazy over there, because it’s a huge district you know and the bus line is huge, and the teachers are out there, the students, and the bus drivers breathing in this toxic there’s a good hour, or at least a half hour – 45 minutes breathing in that nasty smell. But I just feel like in the heart of farm land there’s gotta be a better way.
The same goal we had. My original idea was growing my own fuel, and when I discovered I could I could see the oil, for $1.50-2/lb that’s $12-16 gallon. Didn’t make sense, couldn’t put that in a diesel engine, when diesel prices are less then $4/gallon. It dawned on me, why not just sell it for food first? Then take the waste oil and we just clean it, filters it, dewater it, we put that in our tractors. We eliminate the big debate for using acres first for food and then for fuel everybody wins… we get to sell the product 2x and it becomes profitable. It’s good for the environment and the workers and would be good for the kids who are breathing the exhaust, it smells like french fries instead of diesel fumes, I’m sure it’s much healthier for you.
I was telling her on the EPAs website it’s a school district in Nevada that has the biggest biofuel project in the US. My husband also wants to run his backhoe on biodiesel. I think that’s how they do it down in the Nevada too, is running on food waster.
University loves it too because don’t have to worry about food waste! someone picking
I can’t understand why everyone isn’t doing this?
vision to work out all the kinks,
put together some kind of franchise here
and duplicate it.
So the idea, I had from early on, was to create a model that could be duplicated around Montana, form a coop
that fit their area best, high-oleic safflower oil
saflower upper great plains
where they get a little more rain.
high-oleic canola if they want to do that where it’s a little cooler.
process that seed
deliver to local restaurants within a hundred miles. town or contry
then pick up the waste oil, back from those restaurants. Have a central place to clean it, where the farms
What we’ve found so far, because this oil has a much longer life. The return that we get back is less then 50%
because it lasts so much longer
What comes back to us is not near at much as we thought
significant reduction in fuel consumption from diesel on the farms.
interesting thing, is the fella who developed Deisel, designed it to run on vegetable oil….
There’s a big mystery about his disappearance and what happened to him…
Only thing we have to do to modify is put a heat exchange
the hot water from the diesel engine will heat up the vegetable oil, just before it goes into the injectors if it’s heated to 164
can’t tell, hear any difference
when tractor switches
only have to run the tractor for a few minutes
next morning when it’s cold, be difficult to start on cold vegetable oil.
Doesn’t diesel have it’s now deal, I know Mike always has to plug his backhoe in?
cars had glow plugs that preheated cyclinders
Desiel tractors don’t need to do that, the electric motor is so powerful
very smokey as it warms…
For some reason I’m listening to a million business podcasts …
We have about 4 different businesses connected to the farm, different bus models, at various stages of success.
Oil barn is making money is making money for the first time after about the 3rd year. We started a business called Montana Organic Horizons Snack food Krackling Kamut.
much bigger than old wheat nuts
boil the grain in water
then fry it in vegetable oil
so it’s just lightly brown
meet the minimum fat requirements for school distribution, and then lightly salt it, again with not any more then is allowed for school distribution.
package it in one and half lb packages
starting to sell
chaper with almost every school in Mt
Dry land vegetables
more of an experiment
growing potatoes and squash and onions
n central mt without any irrigation
spread them out about 3-4 times, have enough space and water without irrigation
cultivate everything we can, then we hand weed everything that is missed, a little bit labor intensive, much more then we can get from an acre of wheat. Provides local food for the communities. Hopefully to pro
duplicated all over montana
after we get done worrying about fuel..
next big fight
water scarcity make the fuel shortage look like Disneyland I think.
I was thinking you are very visionary and forward looking. Jon Tester our senator is from Big Sandy right? Do you know him?
Severed on School Board Together, his first and my last.
Helped him convert his farm to organic. He’s one of our safflower and gamut growers.
Spend a lot
You have an acreage that makes sense, most people;s fields in central Montana are 30-80 acres
needs to be certified organic. Everything we do is certified organic, that’s probably the biggest criteria. We provide them with seed that they replace at harvest time. We help with ideas on how to harvest, and manage and everything.
It seems like you went this way because it was more cost effective, not as much as a concern about the chemical pesticides, and I could be totally off base here, but it seems like you got into it because it’s more profitable, which I have always felt has to be the case.
We got into it because of customer demand, customers were asking for it,, I’ve tried it both ways. I find it’s much easier to give the customer what they want then to convince them what I have
you can make them
like monsanto does
tell them how wonderful your prodcut is. they can
if you have a product that they can see the value
they’re willing to pay more for it and support you and to me it’s much more fun and satisfying to create needs and then to create wants
much more profitable, were not paying big bills out for chemicals, our production costs are way less, and our
volume is not quite as big
what’s really important is your net profit, not your yield. The chemcial companies only want to talk about yeield.. the net profit is from subtracting all of your expenses then your sales
if your expenses are more then your sales, if you’re only profitable by cashing the govt check that comes to support you, that’s a shakey foundation to build on.
Then how is it your production costs are less then?
Because I’m using rotations, to control weeds so I don’t have to buy herbicides, we use rotations to discourage pests don’t have pests anyway.
growing own fertilizers that produce nitrogen
without a fertilizer and chemical weed control
significatnly less then my checmial farming negibhors. Like $100,000 less.
Don’t they say a problem.
depends what you’re talking about
One way to get it to last longer, is to spend more time on the store shelf, and less time traveling.
if you have to pick your food green in califonrina and then spend allow for a week of processing and shipping to Montana, compared to
close to vine ripe
picking it fresh in the store that day or evening
people are willing to pay more for that kind of quality. We have a neighbor down here on the river
wait all year long for their canteloupes to get ripe, they hauling to big Sandy,
its’s amazing and even though they’re quite expensive, people think they are really worth the money, and it’s a high value crop, and people love them! But they only eat them in season !
enjoy the best of what we have each season.
if we lived in Chilie we could eat watermelon in January.
why are we shipping this to eat in MT in wintertime?
setting up a continuous fresh food supply and
it’s really more expensive then it’s worth
we lose nutrition and we lose test, and we depend too much on trucking
not enough on local food supply.
My husband’s goal is to grow as much food as we can, so we don’t have to
you can dry it you can can it you can freeze it
storage vegetables, potatoes, sqaush, and onions can be stored for months! We can eat potatoes, and store them from oct to july,, then the new ones are on, can eat fresh until oct dig em and put them in the root cellar. Now potatoes arene’t strawberries, but it;’s a staple
good nutrition and flavor
With a squash – summer squash fresh from the field from july-oct, then start on winter squash – last until may until june
store in dry garage and not too hot, 60-50 degrees, almost a year, not quite a year,
they’ll store almost till new summer squash
onions don’t store quite as long, but you can get several months out of them.
same as all the root vegetables
carrots, turnips and beets, can all store fresh in a root cellar.
I was thinking even if you could just supply the school district with potatoes and carrots.
You can store them in a root cellar very well,
sump pump to take out excess water. That’s all we have.
I just got him some books out of the library on how to build a root cellar. We planted a mini orchard a few years, ago. I was surprised how many apples we get off of the trees.
27 different varieties
expereinments in an orchard
berries apples plums pears, and sour cherries what varieties do best here
books Ive been studying
rated for zone 3, Iv’e tried about 30 of them.
just over 15% of apples
i Your zone 3 then?
sour cherries mixed with apple juice. breakfast drink, why are we drinking orange juice, there’s not an orange tree within a 01000 miles of Montana.
I like that, it’s been so expensive I haven’t even considered buying orange juice this summer.
One part cherry to 3-5 parts apple. It’s a very tangy drink then.
The other thing we’re doing
other different types of berries
choke cherrries buffalo berries are native and
grow in the coolies
buffalo berriess freeze, eat them all winter
june berries you can use for pies add to that nanking cherries,
make jams and jellies
elder berry tree bushes, sour cherry bushes, sand cherries
seed buckthorn bush from Siberia
cherris are very strong in antioxidants fighting radiation disease
My goal is to have fresh fruit from May – Oct
start with strawberries
start with =rhubarb first of may
then june berries and currants
then goose berries
buffalo berries in Sept
apples start end of July last picking right after frost in mid-oct
Then plums are coming on in Aug and September.
pears aug setp
cherries coming off in late July. We can freeze and preserve excess of that fruit and enjoy it all winter long.
I like that. How about tools, I usually have a question about what’s your favorite tool. You’re favorite tool is probably the tracotr.
Probably the tractor
When I was little you were out in the hot sun all day long, in the cold!
cabs air conditinoing
listening to study languages, German and Italian on the cassettes and cds
that’s completely changed. They even have GPS will even drive it for you in a straight line. The people working for me now all use the GPS. For me it’s still a black box and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.
The hoe when it’s not too hard hoeing, when you can see the progress that’s been made. We’ve been experimenting with composting and mulching
less work intensive. We don’t have migrant labor here, so we don’t have a way to hand cultivate everything, so we’re trying to figure out ways to do deep mulching and reduce labor costs
How about telling us a little bit about how you decide to do an experiment or research.
wanted to be a plant scientist, I grew up loving plants, I was in charge of the garden here on the farm, even though I had to help with everything
got a masters in plant pathology
then I went to UC Davis and got a PhD in plant biochemistry
learned very well
how to do scinetific experinemtn scientific controls
heo w to make the object of your expeiemtnt how to have controls
with/without your experimental test object, and limiting your variables, so always very acquainted
really wanted to be a research scientist. I was discrouaged with academia.
controled by working in competition for grants and money most of them couldn’t collaborate without working together for competitino for the same money. So it was a very odd evolution that science had taken
moved home, started very modest with my experiments
selling our ancinet grains
able to use profits
fund my own experiments, so now I just fund my own research
do whatever I want, not in competition with anyone, and I try to publish and share and do anything that can help.
Wow well that explains a lot!
Interested in general conversion to organic
best types of soil building
best types of insect control but as I mentioned before, that’s not a big problem for us
study and my research
good contacts at MSU,
many experiments done here under their direction and sponsorship
Expermient stations in Havre they help us too!
Wow, you’re a busy guy!
Yeah, I don’t spend much time at the coffee shop!
Mention a little bit about our KAMUT® project
stated out with what we thought was a novelty project
taken from the tombs of Egypt. Found out that wasn’t
iron corn planted
brough in by invading armies of greece or Rome.
When I went to Turkey
brought off Noah’s ark
that was their legend
Armenia has the same legend
You know what the good book says anything that is verified by 2-3 witnesses is fact, so that’s good enough for me. Very soon
started growing it as a novelty
people who couldn’t eat modern wheat,
after a neighbor said, they couldn’t eat but could eat our ancient Kamut grain without difficulty
trying to figure out why?
Trying to find anyone in America that wanted to work with me, didn’t believe
many people think there’s not a problem, it’s all in people heads.
12-20% do have experience physical problems when they each wheat.
wheat free/gluten free exceeds that making it a fad more then a response to difficulty
Found a team in Italy interested in working with us, since that’s our biggest customer
over 80k acres goes to Italy
partners in U Bologna and U Florence. Over the last years we published about a 12 papers
anti-inflamatory, has a higher anti-oxidant capacity, when a person eats it.
started with a rat study that gave us indications of this.
then healthy humans
all crhonic diseases linked to inflation we now study inflammation.
switched to toher grain for 6 weeks had a wash out period for 6 weeks, then switched to the other grain. Didn’t know what they were eating.
grain in form of pasta, bread, cereals, crackers
every person with irritable bowel system, eery single person on the KAMUT® diet had improvement in their systems.
Went to a study in cardiovascular disease,
all aspects improved even though these people are all on high doses of high med because they’d all had heart attacks
Went’ from there to this year we’re studying diabetes
that report will be out I leave for Italy in a week, the first of sept
get firs to that
looks also very positive
study in obesity also saw
weight loss with people who switched to ancient wheat.
want to study dementia and alzeimers
linke to wheat
Something as simple as changing your diet from modern wheat to ancient or heritage wheat, or at least introduce aspect of breeding programs
check for inflammation
causing aspect of modern wheat improving everybody’s health.
It’s unfathomable how much that would help with health care costs untold billions of dollars.
develop cell test
would be hopefully
make seed free to farmers to grow that would be anti-inflammatory and still have some of the modern aspects of disease resistance and higher yields they breed into that.
vision and goal
Changing he world! Podcasters are changing the world! So were’e sharing your vision today! Are you gonna go to the Climate Change conference in December?
food show in Bolonga in Spet,
doing a series of seminars at the World Expo in Milan in Oct. I ache a meeting with my research team in Bolonag in Dec
Jan food shows in America
feb itl biofoc. Largest oranic food show in germany
March Anaheim in America largest food show.
april in London
Then I try to farm during the summer
Market almost all winter
Kamut project we have over 2000 different products in the market in the world. My philosophy is to find the best partners to produce food,
process the grain
provide the best
reseasrch that shows while it’s the best
this little snack business we’ve done in big Sandy is the first time that we’ve ever done a retail project.
Is it like popcorn. ou said it’s like corn nuts without having to go to a
35 -40 years ago
no one picked up on it in
study monsanto a lot and do everything the oppostie
control of the world’s food supply
make it more available
more locally produced in a better way
rather then create an international food exchange
comapnnies who are more visionary
have convereted to organic producing organic inputs
not high input
low value crops
if you’re growing strawberries, high value crops, you can afford to
We get potato bugs on our potatoes, we use bt extracts. That is
is toxic to the potato beetle in i’s pupae stage, and immature juvenile stage
controls potato beetles
protezoa an organism between an
affect grasshoppers and it kills them and the other grasshoppers eat the dying
if you have a huge
spreading from one -to the theory through the whole swarm
doesn’t act immediately
need to control
might lose 20-30
don’t have something as a burn
rotations and competitions with our main crop
If our main crop has a good start and a good solid canopy. if you have a lot of space for weed stop grow.
weeds are at a disavantage
Best things to have healthy soil.
lots of space for weeds to grow
if we have a lot of weeds at harvest time
things that we can do,
best weed control
healthy soil produces a
big dif btw
feeding the soil rather then
feeding the plant
don’t think about soil
plants grow in vast stressful way
more suseptible to diseasse and insects
important to us too
chain that we are linking together
very solution oriented guy
do research all day long
never tell anyone what you’ve learned
try to have lots of tours, available for groups
dont have a lot of big secrets
people to do some
our philosophy is everybody wins, and it will be successful.. ripple effect…
2 choices focus on hope and excitement and fun and joy and organic farming profitable very satisfying people enjoy the products
better return from them
financially an advantage
profitablity is important to cons
blog tune into too as we go through the season
How do we connect with you?
If you attend the AERO EXPO and Annual meeting you can meet Bob and tour his farm September 25th, 2015
OGP is dedicated to encouraging gardeners and people who want to grow food and flowers to choose an organic approach
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