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replay of espisode 77. Organic Kamut® Wheat and Oilseeds| Bob Quinn | Quinn Organic Farm | Big Sandy, MT
15th February 2018 • GREEN Organic Garden Podcast • Jackie Marie Beyer
00:00:00 01:04:25

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Originally published September 3, 2015 Mark Highland and I were talking about Bob and I was saying he’s all over Facebook etc these days and since this was definitely one of my all time favorites I thought I’d replay it this week for Valentine’s Day because I love so much but a lot about what he talks about having all sorts of local fruits.

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…


It can…

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

the diesel

has 94%

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.

snack food similar to corn nuts

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

availabe thru FFA and 4-H projects to raise money for fund raising projects.

Future  Farmers of America

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,


little fan

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

sarvice beerries

choke cherrries buffalo berries are native and

grow in the coolies

buffalo berriess freeze, eat them all winter

choke cherries

june berries you can use for pies add to that nanking cherries,

goose beries


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

sand cherries

choke cherries

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...