Dandelion Effect Podcast - Bob Quinn: The High Cost of Cheap Food

Bob Quinn: The High Cost of Cheap Food

Bob Quinn is a scientist, farmer, out-of-the-box thinker and savvy businessman who has dedicated his entire career to regenerating food systems and educating the public on the connection between land and soil preservation, nutritious food, robust rural communities and human health.

With a PhD in Plant Biochemistry from University of California Davis, Bob returned to his hometown of Big Sandy, Montana—a population of 600 people—where he took over the family farm and was among the first farmers in Montana to go organic. He served on the National Board of U.S. Department of Ag to create a USDA organic standard, started a grain cleaning plant, flour mill and Montana’s first wind farm.

His book, Grain by Grain with Liz Carlisle, lays out the recent history of farming in the United States, how the rise of “Big Ag” has pushed small farms out of business and turned rural communities across the country into ghost towns. In a rush to produce higher yields to keep up with the small margins of the global commodity market, farmers have drowned their soil and crops in synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides that have lasting consequences for the land and the people who eat the end products.

What Bob has done to organize organic systems and revive ancient grains is incredible. In 1988, he converted his entire 2,400 acre farm to organic and hasn’t looked back. Over five decades, he started several projects and businesses: Kamut International, a company specializing in organic Kamut khorasan wheat; Montana Flour and Grain, which processes his grains into flour for bakeries, pasta makers and distributors; Big Sandy Organics; and The Oil Barn, an operation that presses organically-grown safflower into cooking oil then returns the used oil to his farm to replace diesel fuel.

In this conversation, he makes the case for eating ancient wheat varieties versus modern wheat, which has been continuously bred for high yields, at the detriment of nutrition, diversity and flavor. We discuss the research that his team has carried out in Italy among patients with diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome and heart disease, and how switching to a diet of Kamut in place of conventionally-grown modern wheat lowered inflammation, cholesterol, cytokines and other markers that lead to chronic illness. Ancient wheat could be part of the answer for the 12-20% of people who experience symptoms of gluten sensitivity or intolerance.

This talk scratches the surface of the high cost of cheap food, but my hope is that it will help you rethink our industrial agriculture system, choose organically-grown foods, experiment with ancient wheat varieties like Einkorn, farro and Kamut, and begin to understand why we can’t talk about farming without talking about human health and planetary healthy. The three are inextricably linked, and if we don’t start to make different choices, we’re just continuing the race to the bottom.

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Episode Transcript

Bob Quinn  00:01
I tell people in this country that we’re very well fed. In other words, we have lots of abundant food—very cheap, abundant food. But we’re not very well nourished. That’s a very big difference, and it’s a consideration that’s kind of the difference between selling commodities and selling food.

Andy Vantrease  00:34
Welcome to the Dandelion Effect Podcast, a space for organic conversation about the magic of living a connected life. Just like the natural world around us, we are all linked through an intricate web, a never-ending ripple that spans across the globe. Here, we explore the ideas that our guests carry through the world, remember who and what inspired them along the way, and uncover the seeds that helped them blossom into their unique version of this human experience. This podcast is a production of the Feathered Pipe Foundation, whose mission is to help people find their direction through access to programs and experiences that support healing, education, community and empowerment.

Today’s guest, Bob Quinn, is a scientist, farmer, out-of-the-box thinker and savvy businessman who has dedicated his entire career to regenerating food systems and educating the public on the connection between land and soil preservation, nutritious food, robust rural communities and human health.

He’s a hard guy to pigeonhole. With a PhD in Plant Biochemistry from University of California Davis, Bob returned to his hometown of Big Sandy, Montana—a population of 600 people—where he took over the family farm and was among the first farmers in Montana to go organic. He served on the National Board of U.S. Department of Ag to create a USDA organic standard, started a grain cleaning plant, flour mill and Montana’s first wind farm.

His book, Grain by Grain with Liz Carlisle, lays out the recent history of farming in the United States, how the rise of “Big Ag” has pushed small farms out of business and turned rural communities across the country into ghost towns. In a rush to produce higher yields to keep up with the small margins of the global commodity market, farmers have drowned their soil and crops in synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides that have lasting consequences for the land and the people who eat the end products.

What Bob has done to organize organic systems and revive ancient grains is incredible. In 1988, he converted his entire 2,400-acre farm in Big Sandy, MT to organic and hasn’t looked back. Over five decades, he started several projects and businesses: Kamut International, a company specializing in organic Kamut khorasan wheat; Montana Flour and Grain, which processes his grains into flour for bakeries, pasta makers and distributors; Big Sandy Organics; and The Oil Barn, an operation that presses organically-grown safflower into cooking oil then returns the used oil to his farm to replace diesel fuel.

In this conversation, he makes the case for eating ancient wheat varieties versus modern wheat, which has been continuously bred for high yields, at the detriment of nutrition, diversity and flavor. We discuss the research that his team has carried out in Italy among patients with diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome and heart disease, and how switching to a diet of Kamut in place of conventionally-grown modern wheat lowered inflammation, cholesterol, cytokines and other markers that lead to chronic illness. Ancient wheat could be part of the answer for the 12-20% of people who experience symptoms of gluten sensitivity or intolerance.

This talk, I will say, just scratches the surface of the high cost of cheap food, but my hope is that it will help you rethink our industrial agriculture system, choose organically-grown foods, experiment with ancient wheat varieties like Einkorn, farro and Kamut, and begin to understand why we can’t talk about farming without talking about human health and planetary healthy. The three are inextricably linked, and if we don’t start to make different choices, we’re just continuing the race to the bottom.

Andy Vantrease  00:34
You start your book Grain by Grain by saying, “Born into a family wheat and cattle operation in Montana during the baby boom, I’d grown up accepting the conventional wisdom about American farmers: That our job was to feed the world and that to do so we needed to produce the highest possible yields by any means necessary.” You grew up on a cattle farm and a wheat farm in Big Sandy, Montana which sounds like it had been in your family since 1920, with your grandfather running it and owning it. What can you tell me about that upbringing?

Bob Quinn  05:15
It was a very small town. It was about 1,000 people (400 more than it is now). Main Street was bustling with businesses: We had five elevators in town, five bars and five churches, so that was pretty well balanced. And they had a pool hall and a show house and the bowling alley and three grocery stores. Our school went from Class C to Class B, so it was growing at the time for Montana schools. About 160 in the high school when I graduated, about 40 [people] in my class. I was active in speech and science club. I went to science fairs and speech contests all over the state. I was active in FFA. I had two great loves growing up: One was science and the other was plants. So, when I went to college, I combined those two and studied Botany and Plant Pathology at Montana State University. After I finished my bachelor’s in Botany, I went on to get a Master’s in Plant Pathology. Then I was encouraged by my major professors there to keep going. I wanted to do research because that’s the kind of science that I really enjoyed most, and I went on to UC Davis, where I graduated and got a PhD in Plant Biochemistry.

Andy Vantrease  06:29
I read that you went to Virginia Tech for a summer camp or something. I’m a Hokie as well. So, I read that and got really excited.

Bob Quinn  06:37
Oh fun! That was really a turning point in my high school career, you might say, in deciding what I wanted to do. I had gone to two of those. They were called National Science Foundation Summer Science Institutes for high school kids, and they were started in response to Sputnik going up before we were in space as a country. There was a big drive to educate more scientists, so one of the programs of that was to start in high school and get kids interested in science. So, they put these programs all over the country. The first one I went to Iowa, I studied geology and math. My dad was an electrical engineer, so you know, the sons are always thinking, “Well, maybe I should follow in the footsteps of my dad.” And he was an engineer, so I studied math—and I hated it. I didn’t do too well. I shouldn’t say I hated it, but I didn’t like it. I found it quite hard. It was conceptual, more conceptual stuff.

So, the second year I applied for Summer Science Institute at Virginia Tech, and that was in Blacksburg, Virginia, which I loved. They have actual peach trees there that you can pick peaches off of—something I wasn’t used to. I loved that. Half of my time was doing this research and the other half was studying all types of biological science, particularly plant science. I actually wanted to go back to Virginia to school and my dad loaded me up and took me to Bozeman to see what they had. It was a lot closer. I did meet some scientists there in the Botany and Plant Pathology Departments, and they assured me that everything I did in Virginia, they could do it in Bozeman at Montana State. So, that’s why I ended up going to Montana State.

But for me, when I started college, my preparation from Summer Science Institutes was a terrific prelude to college. I started studying two hours for every hour of classroom, that’s what they taught us. And I whizzed through college. I was always a B student in high school, all my teachers considered me a B student, that’s all I ever got. But when I started college, I found that most kids weren’t studying, which was quite confusing. They pay all this money, and then they don’t study? I don’t know what they were there for other than, you know, just a good time. But I was able to get almost straight A’s, and that was quite amazing to me. I never experienced that before. My professors, they didn’t know me, they didn’t have any preconceived expectations. So, I just showed up. I showed up after class to ask questions. I tried to do extra work, and I loved it.

Andy Vantrease  09:09
I feel like that naturally happens sometimes when you just really start to get into something that you’re passionate about and that’s interesting to you. It seems like the world of plants, and experimenting in general, was always something that was kind of in your DNA and in your blood. What I loved about the way you describe and explain your path and your life is that there were all of these small ah-ha moments that seemed to just kind of, you know… you have a realization and then you file it away. Then you have another realization and file it away, and they build upon each other. So, I wrote down a couple of those that I thought seemed to be moments along your life where the experimentation guided your path. It sounds like your great aunt was an influence on you when it came to starting you in gardening. She bought you a Rodale Gardening magazine way early in your life, and that seemed to kind of plant a seed, figuratively and literally: You started your own garden then as your dad walked by, with his coveralls covered in pesticides and herbicides, there were certain plants in your garden that seemed to die or not do so well if they were kind of along that path.

Bob Quinn  10:31
It was 2,4-D in those days, and that’s a very volatile herbicide. We used to see our leaves in our tree lot curling on our ash tree. Some plants are more susceptible than others, and ash are very susceptible. And even though we weren’t even spraying really close by, they would be affected. But it happened a few times, enough that I recognized what was going on—just for two or three feet into the rows, if the rows were coming up to the sidewalk, the plants were starting to twist and curl. In those days, we didn’t have cabs on our tractors at all, so depending on which way the wind was blowing, you could just be in this fog of herbicides while you’re spraying for hours and hours during the day. It would drench at least the outside of your clothes for sure—the coveralls that he wore, he would remove before coming in the house—but it would be all over you.

Andy Vantrease  11:28
I definitely want to get into that. But it sounds like another one of those moments for you was when you were with your professors at UC Davis and going down to a peach farm. It’s funny, you’ve already mentioned peaches at Virginia Tech, so it sounds like that’s potentially one of your favorite fruits. But you’re at this peach farm, and you’re thinking about the smell and the taste and the color and everything that goes along with recognizing a fresh ripe peach. And you overhear your professors talking about a new petroleum-based chemical that one of them had created in order to make the peaches look ripe, even though they were still rock hard.

Bob Quinn  12:15
So, we got there, and the peaches looked delicious on the tree, but they were not fit to eat. And I thought that was almost fraud. I mean, you’re standing with a picture that wasn’t real, that wasn’t true. And it was for—I didn’t use these terms in those days—but it was because of the industrialization of food that was starting to happen, so that they could dump those peaches in a big crate and ship them across the country for very little money rather than what I was used to when I was growing up. Our peaches would come in a box (we were still 1,000 miles to the nearest peach orchard), and they would come in a box that was double wrapped. In a small, two-layered box, it’d be one layer above another, all with cardboard and paper separating them, and each peach would be individually wrapped and then a little holder like a cupcake holder. We’d set those out on the shelves, and they would ripen until they just start to feel a little bit soft, you know, how a ripe peach gets. And they were delicious. They’d ripen wonderfully, and they looked ripe, too, I mean they weren’t green anymore.

But you couldn’t dump those into a crate. They would bruise, and because they were picked close to ripe, they had to be handled quite carefully not to bruise them and destroy their quality. And this is what was done. But with this new industrial procedure, you could create a peach that looked ripe so it would be beautiful on the store shelf, but you could ship it across the country without regard of special handling, which I’m sure was a huge savings of costs. And that’s what the bottom line was: How much could we save?

That was the first time I actually ever questioned the direction we were going with these chemicals and with industrial agriculture. I never questioned it before, even when my dad walked by my garden, I didn’t really think about, “Well that’s what we eat.” You know, I didn’t think about that. I was frustrated that my plants were dying, or they weren’t doing well, but I didn’t think about, “Well we put those in our mouth.” I didn’t think about that. It was only that case that I got clear halfway through graduate school where it really hit me in the face. Because it was something I loved and was used to enjoying the quality of some type of food—in this case a peach—and I was completely disappointed. I was completely fooled by something that looked really nice but couldn’t eat it. Unedible!

And then when we started seeing those kinds of peaches in our stores back in Montana years later, we would buy them, and they wouldn’t be packed anymore. They’d be in a pile in the grocery store, just stacked up on top of each other like apples. You’d bring them home, and they never did ripen properly. They would normally start to mold from the center out, and they never tasted anything like a tree-ripened peach.

Now I’ve discovered from our research of later years, that flavors and aromas and tastes are directly related to nutrition, because polyphenols that are secondary metabolizing the plants are very important for antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Those are what gives the plants their aromas and their flavors. By and large, the better something tastes—out of the field, I’m not talking about being doctored with sugar and salt, but right out of the field—the better it tastes, probably the more nutritious it is for you. And that was something I also had no idea of at that time. But since those peaches never ripened properly, you never got the benefit of that.

Andy Vantrease  16:06
Yeah, that’s so interesting, because I think about some of the foods that I grew up with and thinking about how I could never seem to replicate the taste or the enjoyment of some of the vegetables and fruits that we would grow on our own when trying to buy that same thing at the grocery store. It’s not apples to apples, it’s not strawberries to strawberries everywhere, you know? And to know that that affects the nutritional profile. When you say it, it seems like, “Oh, yeah, that’s common sense,” if you’re thinking about the natural order of things, but we’re always trying to replicate that and coming up short a lot of the time.

Bob Quinn  16:52
We’re always trying to improve on it. The trouble is our focus in improving is not the whole picture; it’s using one isolated aspect like yield, for example. Rather than focus on increasing or selecting for nutrition, taste, yield, color, size, all this stuff, we select for yield, and then we just focus on that to death. And a lot of these other things just fall by the wayside, not because they’re wanting them to—I call these unintended consequences of too narrow a focus. The consequences are the loss of nutrition, flavors, all this sort of stuff.

Andy Vantrease  17:31
You know, in your book, you said like, “Oh, I went to UC Davis, the heart of what was supposed to be progress in modern agriculture,” and then really making this big decision to come back to the family farm in Big Sandy, Montana. Why did you end up doing that? What was your thought process and maybe the inspiration behind that?

Bob Quinn  17:55
Well, there were several things: By the time I was in five years of graduate school, I was a little bit disillusioned of how research actually worked. Because it was based on grants, scientists were in competition with each other for money. So, we were told in our lab not to discuss any particular research we were doing with a certain other lab in Riverside or wherever it was, because they were going to be in competition with us for the same money, for the same grants, because they were doing something very, very similar. So here, instead of using our resources to collaborate and solve the problems of the world and push back the frontiers of science and knowledge, we were actually encouraged to be in our own kingdom. It was all about kingdom building. That’s changed a little bit now, but that’s been 40-45 years ago, and that’s the way it was then.

Now, granting agencies are encouraging universities to collaborate and come together for grants and you have a better chance for grants if they’re spread around different states and different colleges. So, I think there’s been some progress. When I graduated, that wasn’t the way it was. But also, by the 1970s—I finished my doctorate in ‘76—the program to increase scientists was so successful that you couldn’t find a job anywhere because there’s so many scientists. The doctorate graduates were mostly expected to go on what they called “post-doc fellowships,” so you continued kind of in this holding pattern until a job showed up somewhere as a continuing researcher or as a post-doc fellow in some lab somewhere. I had enough of being in the lab. I really missed being outside and to me, it wasn’t the same satisfaction to have a notebook full of numbers and results of test tube experiments and all these other things, than what I had when I could actually see things going on and test different ideas on different crops and see for myself and taste for myself the results of those experiments.

So, I was more geared to that kind of research: applied research. Not so much fundamental research, which is important. Basic research is important, and somebody has to do it, but I didn’t find that I was built for that too well. And my dad was in a vice president seat for Montana Farm Bureau, and I knew he was going to move up to president and be spending a lot of time away from the farm, so I called him up and said, “Would you like some help? We’re ready to move back.” My wife was also from Montana, so she was quite in favor of that. We were a long way away from family. So, we moved back, and when I first got here, our farm was about 2,400 acres, and that was just about an average size farm for Montana. It was also a nice size for one family, but it was a little bit small—a lot small, actually—for two families if they were getting all their income from that.

When I was growing up, very few of the women from the farms worked off the farm, and even fewer of the men worked off the farm. When I got back, we found that that was starting to change. There were a lot of women working in town, and even some of the men were working in town to supplement their farm income, which was low. But it was a financial necessity. So, we tried to figure out—or I was mostly trying to figure out—what I could do without actually going to town or sending my wife to town. She had four kids at the time, already a full-time job, and she loved that anyway. That’s what she wanted to do. So, I was trying to figure out how we could increase some of the value we were already producing on the farm in order to bring in more income for us. We were already doing all the magic of modern agriculture of increasing our yields as far as we could, and it wasn’t enough. Input costs were going up all the time and prices of commodities were always going up and down. So, it was a little bit of a squeeze.

Andy Vantrease  22:11
The Committee for Economic Development: I understood that to be kind of the catalyst to “get big or get out” in agriculture. Was that already in play when you came home to Montana? When you came back, what was the status of the farm before you really started to even look at farming without chemicals and switching to organic?

Bob Quinn  22:37
Well, my dad was one of the first in our neighborhood to adapt to chemicals, particularly chemical fertilizers. Everybody adapted to herbicides immediately because it was just like a miracle drug. Weeds were always a problem. Farmers were not really doing the rotations that we know and understand are needed to break up weed cycles; we were just spraying and planting the same crop over and over generally. So, the weeds were getting to be a terrible problem, and the herbicides took those out. There was no weed resistance in the beginning to any herbicides, because it was brand new, and it was just like a wonder drug.

In the Northern Great Plains, you only can grow a crop once every two years, because of lack of moisture, so one year is the crop year and the second year we summer fallow and cultivate the ground to keep the weeds out to save moisture for the cash crop year. A lot of the fields had been broken up when the homesteaders first came in the late teens, so from there to the 1950s, you had about only 30 years. And of those 30 years, you only had 15 crops. The nutrition of the soil, and much of it from the sod that had been built up over millennia, was just starting to wear away because nobody was putting anything on. You’re just taking it off, taking it off, taking it off for the harvest. You can’t have a one way… that’s mining. And for every mine, there is a bottom. When that mine plays out, there’s no more to be mined. And if you treat your ground that way, that’s what’s going to happen to you. So, the chemical industry developed and preached the idea that this is a way to renew your soil, the nutrition of your soil.

Andy Vantrease  24:28
By adding that nitrogen fertilizer?

Bob Quinn  24:32
Yeah, because nitrogen was a big kicker for growing plants. They did very well and responded when you put that on if the ground was depleted in nitrogen. And by that time, it was, by and large.

Andy Vantrease  24:47
I see.

Bob Quinn  24:51
So that’s how it evolved, but the idea of “getting big or getting out,” we heard this in the early 60s. This was not something new with the Butz campaign, the Secretary of Agriculture. He articulated it quite strongly, but there was also the idea that in the modern day, there wasn’t really room for the little mom-and-pop operation when everybody had a milk cow and a flock of chickens and all that stuff. You could go to the store to buy your milk and buy your eggs; you didn’t need to grow your own. That was the idea that was popularized.

When I was growing up, we would sell our cream. We had one or two milk cows. We weren’t a dairy, but we had one or two milk cows for our own use. But the extra cream we didn’t use, it was sold to the creamery, and we made butter and ice cream. We would sell eggs to local stores right in Big Sandy. Sometimes we sold chickens to stores in Havre. So, we were involved in that at a small level. But then as farms got bigger and tractors and equipment got bigger, people spent more time in the field because they had more acres, and a lot of that just disappeared. Margins became so tight, that the smaller places just couldn’t make it pay anymore, pay for all these inputs and the cost of new machinery. Most of my neighbor’s friends were discouraging their kids from coming back to the farm.

Andy Vantrease  26:13
Because they could go do something different and make a lot more money and make a better living?

Bob Quinn  26:20
Have a better life, yeah. That was all equated with more money and a better life. Not everybody thinks that way nowadays as much. When things were booming in the 50s and 60s, that was just kind of an upward spiral of where things were heading, and it was good times. But it wasn’t good times for the really small folks. From the time I was a youth, I would say almost half of our neighbors are gone now.

Andy Vantrease  26:43
You also said that the number of people working in agriculture, I think it was like 6.7 million in 1947 down to 2 million today or whenever you wrote the book, in 2019. I just want to unpack those steps of things that happened during that time to paint a picture for people.

Bob Quinn  27:03
Remember this evolved from a situation where we had very few inputs. My grandpa used to tell me the only money he felt he really made was on cattle because there’s almost no inputs on cattle. They’re out in the prairie eating prairie grass and that’s it. You just kind of take care of them, keep the fences up and that sort of thing. But when you start farming, then you have to buy tractors, you have to buy fuel, you have to buy seed, and all that sort of thing that he felt was adding to the risk. So, you had to have a good crop and you had to have no hail, no grasshoppers, and no drought to have a good return. And with cattle, they were mostly immune to those kinds of challenges. So, anyway, that’s what he saw.

My folks in their generation saw the introduction of really industrialized agriculture, where in the beginning, it was just for a small additional cost, you could buy weed killer that would take care of your weed problem. For a small additional cost, you could add just a little bit of fertilizer on your fields and get enough yield increase that more than payed for the fertilizer costs. And then as things evolved, decade after decade, those just kept increasing in costs. Everything was on, “How can I get more bushels and spend less money?”

As farms got bigger, you got bigger machinery, and so you didn’t need as many people to hire—and it was hard to find good help anyway. So, that was kind of being pushed by two different causes: First of all, the saving money and then the trouble of finding good men to work for you. What that also did, however, was deplete the farm population, and the smaller farms sold out—they didn’t encourage their sons or daughters to come back to the farm. So, they would sell out or some of them went broke then you had less people supporting Main Street Big Sandy, and it started to decline. Also, because we had three grocery stores, we didn’t have enough people to support three grocery stores anymore. Now we have one. We had five elevators and the elevators are consolidated and now they wanted to do 50 or 100-car trains, all filled with wheat, the same “commodity” it’s called. They want the farmers to haul to these big grain terminals and fill those kinds of cars in just a few hours. The railroads are all in cahoots with this, so they just increase the cost of rail transportation to the little towns saying, “Well, that’s just out of our way, and it’s too hard to handle one or two cars at a time. We want to do 50 cars at a time or do a whole train at a time.” So, they caused those elevators to go out of business that can’t do that for them. If people saw and understood the end at the beginning, they might have had a chance to do something about it.

In the beginning, it felt very comfortable for us to have this new technology, these new solutions to old problems. And they were problems. So, that was a natural adaptation then it became all the universities talked about, it’s all that was taught. Then the drumbeat of the chemical companies saying, “This is the only way to farm—anyone who thinks to do something different is going to go broke. There’s no future in that” and blah, blah, blah.

Andy Vantrease  30:31
And what about what you call the commodity mentality or the commodity mindset? How did that have an effect?

Bob Quinn  30:38
I don’t grow a single commodity on my farm, not one. And I say, the only thing that we grow on our farm is food. It’s good food and it’s nutritious. It’s good for people’s health and their vitality and longevity. That’s what we grow. Commodities are something that are bought and sold; you don’t think about people eating commodities. It’s a disconnect, and industrial ag loves that because they can take over the commodities and they can take care of it from then on. Commodity growers almost never get to meet their end user. For wheat growers, they could be in Korea or South Korea or Japan or Taiwan. You never meet these people.

I remember the first time that I was thanked, I was at a food show, and a lady came up to me and shook my hand robustly and looked right in my eyes, and she said, “Thank you for growing food for my family.” And I thought, “Wow!” No one ever thanked me for growing food before. As a grain farmer, you never hear that. We don’t go to farmer’s markets, we never get to see anybody buy something or taste something that we’ve made, and say, “Wow, this is the best tomato I’ve ever tasted” or “the best peach I’ve ever eaten” or anything like that. Because we’re growing wheat, you have to turn it into bread or pasta or something, and most of the taste is lost in the industrial process of additives and sugar and salt and everything they put in flavorings. This lady was so appreciative that we were growing organic, and it was adding nutrition for her family. I tell you, I never thought much about it before, but when I went home after that show, I never grew another commodity on my farm anymore.

Andy Vantrease  32:13
So that was a big turning point to actually have a relationship with the person who’s eating the food that you’re growing.

Bob Quinn  32:20
Yes, and have them show appreciation for that. Because the only appreciation we got was when we hauled into the elevator, and there was not any appreciation at all. We usually got some kind of complaint: too dirty or too much chaff or whatever. It’s just something that they’re looking for an excuse to pay you less for your commodity, because that’s what it was. They’re going to see if they can make as much money off of you as possible by blending or, you know, putting poor grain with better grain and selling it all for a little better price than the poor stuff. So, that was the mentality, and I think that that was a very great disservice to people who became known as commodity growers or commodity producers.

Andy Vantrease  33:01
And what else is considered commodity? Wheat, corn, soybean…

Bob Quinn  33:07
Cotton. Barley… in our area, wheat and barley are the two big commodities. Then as you go further east, corn and soybeans, of course, are huge.

Andy Vantrease  33:16
Being a commodity farmer or anybody who’s really kind of in the business of monocropping, what is that doing to the land and the soil?

Bob Quinn  33:29
If you’re focused on commodity growing, you don’t think about that. The thing that forced me to understand or try to understand and appreciate that was going organic, looking at organic systems. Organic systems are based on keeping the soil healthy. Chemical industrial systems are based on feeding the plant and producing as much yield as possible. If you’re focusing on feeding the soil then you not only have a plant that’s well nourished, but you have a plant that is nourishing. So, I tell people, you know, in this country, we’re very well fed. In other words, we have lots of abundant food, very cheap, abundant food, but we’re not very well nourished. And that’s a very big difference. And it’s a consideration that’s kind of the difference between selling commodities and selling food.

We’re never taught to think in this way of, well, maybe some of that pesticide or herbicide could be retained in that kernel of wheat and maybe end up in somebody’s loaf of bread and be a problem for them when they eat it. You never hear any talk like that when you go to a mainline farm organization annual meeting or university seminars of farming and growing grain and all the latest greatest scientific innovations to help you get more. No one ever talks about that 12 to 20% of the population can no longer eat wheat without some kind of difficulty. We don’t talk about that. If you were a farmer and raised a certain type of crop, and 20% of the people couldn’t even eat it anymore because it made them sick, I mean, wouldn’t that have an effect on you? It sure had an effect on me. Think of all the time and resources and efforts you use to grow this crop and 20% of people can’t eat it anymore. Wow, what is wrong with this? This is something I wish we would think about more. And maybe it would cause us to change whatever we need to change to eliminate that, because it wasn’t always that way. This is a new phenomenon in the last few decades.

Andy Vantrease  35:37
Learning that fact, did that have something to do with you going down the path of ancient grains and starting to understand the differences between the modern wheat and ancient wheat?

Bob Quinn  35:49
In the beginning, I didn’t arrive back home on the farm with some grand plan to change agriculture. I didn’t come back to change anything. I thought when I got back here, everything was working pretty well. There were a few of these glitches like I talked about with the peach thing in California, but we didn’t grow peaches. I never translated that into spraying our wheat crops with anything. I just never thought of it that way. I never connected it. I didn’t connect seeing my plants curl up on one side of my garden as this is food that we’re going to eat. I didn’t think of it that way because it wasn’t brought to our attention. For me, you know, things need to be brought to my attention. I don’t just dream up stuff all by myself too much. I have experiences that trigger things.

And so, the ancient grain was really triggered by a lady, a friend of ours, who couldn’t eat wheat. But she had lots of other allergies too—to foods, to formaldehyde and carpets and all kinds of chemicals. She just had all kinds of trouble. We knew that some people said they couldn’t eat wheat, but they weren’t very common, and they didn’t talk very much about them. A lot of the scientific notion in those days, was, well, it’s all in their heads. It was a mental problem, not a physical problem. They just had this mental block, and that’s what was making them sick.

But this lady that couldn’t eat wheat at all, we gave her some pasta made from this ancient grain that we were experimenting with. And she called back and she said, “What is this stuff? When I eat this, it makes me feel better.” She was surprised that she could even eat it in the first place, but when she did eat it, it made her feel better. That was an amazing revelation, something we had never even imagined! So, one person said this to us, and then she said, “You know, I have a sister who has all kinds of trouble eating different types of food. Can I send her some of this?” and I said, “Sure, we’ll give you a box full.” And she sent her this box of Kamut pasta, and after eating it for several weeks, she was less sensitive to many of the other foods she was having problems with it. Wow, at that point, I said, “This is something very, very special, and we need to understand what’s going on with this.”

Andy Vantrease  38:05
That’s amazing. And so, is that when you started doing the studies over in Italy? Is that kind of what led to starting to research this in a more formal way?

Bob Quinn  38:15
It was interesting in those days, Andy, I couldn’t really find anybody in America who wanted to touch this with a 10-foot pole. When we started down this research path, we found a group in Italy that were very interested in this because the Italians also had noticed this—not as much as Americans, but they had started to notice it. And they were very concerned about it because for an Italian not to be able to eat pasta, they weren’t going to run down and get wheat-free, gluten-free. That’s not what they wanted. They wanted a solution.

So, we found some very friendly scientists who were interested in looking at this problem. We ended up working with a group in University of Bologna and University of Florence at their medical research hospital. These are some of the top universities in the whole world. University of Bologna has been in existence for almost 1,000 years, so they didn’t just start in somebody’s garage last week. So, they were very interested in looking at it and almost immediately we had success in comparing modern wheat and ancient wheat for some very significant differences. The difference we were looking for first was antioxidant capacity. Ancient wheat for some reason—which we also don’t know why—takes up more selenium from the same soil side-by-side as modern wheat does. And it’s a significant amount more, so there’s enough selenium in our ancient Kamut wheat that eating it three times a day gives you 100% of your daily selenium requirement. Very few foods can make that claim.

So, we thought that we’d be able to, you know, like the blueberry, they’re always saying that they’re high in antioxidants and on and on. I’d like to be able to put a number on our Kamut and compare it to blueberries, to give people something in reality that they compare to and grasp onto and understand easily. We found that there was a significant difference, but what we didn’t look for and was amazed about and didn’t even ask to be studied, was the fact that there was an amazing difference in anti-inflammatory effect of eating this grain. One of the lab techs just happened to look for inflammation of different organs. We were doing a rat study, the very first study we did was a rat study, and they were looking at organs that are normally inflamed by the type of study that we were doing. And the rats on the Kamut diet had no inflammation. It was protecting these rats from inflammation! Compounds were being introduced to the rats to create free radicals—that’s what we were studying, the reduction of free radicals and whether they had an abnormal amount of free radicals. They gave a shot of a compound that created these free radicals, and then you could see how much those free radicals were reduced by the different diets. The diet of the ancient wheat reduced the free radicals significantly more than the diet of modern wheat. And we were really happy; that’s what we were looking for. But when they found out that there was no inflammation from eating this grain, it was about that time the Wheat Belly book came out.

Andy Vantrease  41:16
Oh, so this was… you’re into the 2000s now, right? I remember that book.

Bob Quinn  41:20
Yeah, that came out after about the third year of our research. We started in the late 90s, so we’ve been going a little over 20 years now with this team. When his book came out, we already had some preliminary results, and so I called up Bill Davis, which was the author’s name. I called him up to tell him what we found, and he didn’t really take it very seriously. His own experience was he could eat ancient grain, and he didn’t have any problems with it the way he did with modern wheat, but he said, “Almost all wheat is inflammatory.” Except by his own admission, he said that these ancient wheats he was eating weren’t. But at the end of the book, he said, “Don’t eat any wheat.”

Andy Vantrease  41:59
Yeah, like many people now. There are so many nuances to things, it’s easier to make that blanket statement of, “Go gluten free, stay away from all grains, do this, do that.” Instead of trying to find this one species that might not be that way.

Bob Quinn  42:17
With those blanket statements, you’re throwing the baby out with the bathwater. So, how can a grain or a food that sustained civilizations for thousands of years—the ancient Babylonians, the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans, all these huge, great civilizations—all of a sudden be causing such trouble as we’re seeing today. It can’t be the nature of the grain; it must be the way that it has been changed that is causing the trouble, not the way it started out. Wheat was referred to as the staff of life, it was very fundamental to good nutrition and strength and vitality and everything. Now, we can no longer say that really with 20% of people having trouble. You can’t say it’s the staff of life anymore. I tell people that I think the staff of life is broken, so we need to go back and see what broke it and fix it. Go back to where we took a wrong turn, and then if we want to go forward, keep checking those things that don’t get us on the wrong track again.

Andy Vantrease  43:15
And how has it been changed? It’s been genetically modified?

Bob Quinn  43:20
There’s no GMO wheat. So, you can’t really say it’s been genetically modified in the GMO sense of the term. But it has been bred and selected for high yield for the farmers, high yield for the millers to make the bran hard and flake off easier, and high yield for the bakers. And probably the bakers, although it’s not their fault, they get a greater loaf volume for the same amount of wheat. It saves the bakers money, and they can sell air for the price of bread. The only way they can do that is make the gluten so strong and elastic that it can hold way more air in those cells that make up bread. If you cut through a loaf of bread, it’s all full of empty cells. Those empty cells are full of carbon dioxide, and they are there because the gluten was able to hold that gas in and not break and let it escape. So, if you can change the gluten to make it even stronger and more elastic, it can hold more air and you can make more bread with less wheat. If you make sourdough with that and predigest that gluten and destroy it, a lot of people can eat sourdough because the gluten has been destroyed in that loaf of bread. They’re still getting a lot of the nutrition that’s in wheat, but they’re not getting the problems that come with modern gluten.

Andy Vantrease  44:34
So, what can people do if they have trouble eating wheat? I mean, I am one of those people that gets different symptoms. I don’t have celiac, and I don’t have a very intense wheat allergy or sensitivity, but I don’t feel great. So, I’m really curious of what your advice is to start me and other people on this path. What do we do if we want to begin experimenting with some of these ancient grains and see if we feel a difference?

Bob Quinn  45:01
People who have trouble eating wheat, there are four things that you can do to really stack the deck in your favor: One is eat organic. So, it’s not just the breeding; it’s also the residue of pesticides and herbicides that are on the grain. That, for some people, is the main problem. Not for all, but for some. So, if you eat organic, you can eliminate that. If you eat heirloom or ancient wheat, you can eliminate the change that was made in the breeding program. That’s when it really kicked in the whole idea of abundant cheap food after World War II. This country, after they saw what happened in Europe, had no interest in us ever going hungry. So, there was a big push to have cheap, abundant food.

Andy Vantrease  45:43
How do you know which are the old grains? What are some of the names of them, or how do people find them?

Bob Quinn  45:50
You have to ask. So, the ancient wheats are Einkorn, emmer—sometimes called farro—spelt, but you have to make sure it’s not modern spelt that has been crossed with modern grain, but an ancient heirloom type spelt. You have to ask about that. And of course, our khorasan wheat is in that group. And then any wheats that are from pre-World War II, so Turkey Red or from Canada, the Red Fife. Some of those other ones are not so common, but you can find them. And a lot of people can tell in eating the grains if they have trouble or not, especially those that go to Europe and they say, “Well, I can eat the bread in Europe, but I can’t eat it in America.” Well, then that tells me. First of all, their wheat hasn’t had the amount of breeding ours has because their bread is different. Generally, they’re not really trying to make air bread like we do. They do a lot of sourdough, their loaves are much more compacted, and that’s just their tradition. So, they don’t have that kind of problem.

The third thing you can do is eat whole grain instead of just white flour. White flour products, you’re throwing away a third of the nutrition, so there’s things in there that can help with your digestion, like the fiber and additional protein and vitamins that go out to the pigs with the bran. I tell people, the pigs are eating better than we are! And then the last thing that I’ve already mentioned, is looking for sourdough instead of fast-rising yeast. Fast-rising operations have only time to digest the sugar and turn that into carbon dioxide, and they don’t even get to working on the starch or the proteins or gluten at all. They’re just acting for less than an hour even; sourdough goes for 24 hours or 48 or even up to 72 hours. 95% of all the gluten is gone with a 72-hour fermentation. It’s like pre-digestion, so when your body eats that bread, it’s already half-digested for you, you could say. And people can tell the difference. So, if you do all four of those things, you’re about 85 to 95% assured that you’re going to be able to eat wheat without any problem anymore. But we don’t know who the 5% or 10% are, so you just have to try it and experiment yourself. And this is non-celiac. Celiac is only 1% of the population, but for some of those people, it’s life and death.

Andy Vantrease  48:07
Yeah, just for the people who have some brain fog or digestive problems or joint aches and bloating, like things that are more in the sensitivity category. One of the things that I was really surprised by, because I’ve been going down different roads and changing up my diet because I had Lyme disease and an autoimmune issue in 2015 (that’s when it kind of kicked off). But I’ve gone down the road of eating like the Paleo diet and the no grains and no wheat and then doing gluten-free on and off, on and off. And what really surprised me about the research that you all did with the different categories of diagnoses, when you moved from doing the rat studies to the studies with people, and you worked with people who had diabetes, you worked with people who had irritable bowel syndrome, and I think that there was another category of heart disease. I think a change that I didn’t expect was like really understanding the nutrients and the vitamins and minerals that were being left out of a diet if you just completely removed grains. I think I’ve been kind of indoctrinated over the last five or six years to think you don’t really need them, like they’re inflammatory. You know, you can go gluten-free and be eating breads made with like tapioca starch and potato starch and all these different things. And you’re not really missing anything, but in seeing the ways that the people improved in your studies, that really switched around my thinking to really start to believe, “No, you’re actually taking out a whole portion of diet that you don’t necessarily have to.”

Bob Quinn  50:07
Once we discovered this anti-inflammatory property then we immediately went to human studies. First to a group who had potential for heart disease but were not going to be on medications—and we saw some dramatic differences there. Then we went to heart disease, as you mentioned, then to diabetes, because all these chronic diseases are completely linked to inflammation. We would look at cytokines and other blood markers of inflammation, and then we could see what was happening in the body. And that was quite an amazing discovery. Especially when they did the heart study, which was about the second big human say we did, our researchers didn’t think we would see anything because all these people in our study had at least one heart attack. And they were on all kinds of heart medication, statins, and all kinds of things. And the [researchers] said, “They are on so much medication, the diet can’t possibly show anything different.” But even on top of what the statins were doing, we saw a significant reduction in cholesterol with the Kamut compared to the moderate wheat. So, they were astounded by that.

People are not used to thinking of food as medicine, and you really need to be thinking that way. Medicine should be our food. It’s not going to keep you from getting a broken arm or something. But it can certainly keep you from getting a chronic disease, like development of diabetes, and lots of cancers, and all those kinds of things.

Andy Vantrease  51:38
One of the statistics that was included that I was again, shocked by (but then also made a lot of sense once you went into it in your book), was the percentage of income that we used to spend on food: You said in your lifetime, it went from 18% to 9%. And coincidentally, the percentage that we pay in healthcare has gone from 9% to 18%. So, this really weaves into what you call “the high cost of cheap food.” We’re paying for that somewhere; we’re just paying for it down the line.

Bob Quinn  52:
That’s right. We’re paying less and less at the checkout counter and paying more and more later on. It’s not just our own health, although that’s probably the biggest consideration, but it’s all those things we’ve touched upon: The decline of farms and farms going broke, that’s the high cost of cheap food. The communities they used to support now in great decline, that’s another high cost of cheap food. The pollution of the earth. We have Roundup now in our rain. We are spraying so much chemical, thousands of millions of tons of Roundup that it’s even in the rain that falls on the earth. Rivers are contaminated. We have wells in Iowa that children are forbidden to drink from because of high nitrates from fertilizers. We have dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico the size New Jersey from again, chemical contamination. And these are all extremely high costs for cheap food.

And the biggest one you just touched on is the health aspect. You cannot talk about the cost of food without talking about the cost of health, those two are linked and should always be talked about in tandem. If you add the total of those since World War II, so the last 60-70 years, the total hasn’t changed much. The contribution of each has changed dramatically, but the total hasn’t changed too much. If you add food plus healthcare together, that’s still around a quarter—20% of your income goes to those two together. So, that’s why for people to focus only on the cost of food and say, “Oh my gosh, now it’s gone up. Organic is so much more.” But if you’re thinking about eating organic and lowering healthcare costs, I’m going to win. It’s a win-win situation. Spending a little bit more on food and spending a lot less on health care and feeling better, you’re not only better off financially, you’re better off physically and how you feel—how do you put a price tag on that? I mean, that’s worth really a lot. That’s why I think that we should always talk about those two in tandem. It’s not just the cost of food from inflationary pressures going up that you see right now. That’s a little bit of a different thing. I’m talking about people who are complaining about spending more for organic and saying, “What is this worth?” Well, if it’s done right—and most organic is—it’s got to be more nutritious, and that’s where your benefits are going to come back to you and savings of healthcare.

It’s really connected to the other parts, so you have to look at the whole picture holistically to understand really what we need to do to change. And this is what bothers me about what I call “industrial organic”—they’re starting to look at yields again to lower the cost of it. Well, first of all, I think we should be looking nutrition as just as important or maybe even more important a component than yields. We shouldn’t have a goal to lower the cost of organic at the expense of nutrition. That’s not our goal. That’s the complete industrial mindset that we have to change or prevent from becoming dominate, because it’s already there in certain areas, and we have to roll back that idea.

One of the ways that we could easily do this—so if you have any friends that are in science and want to do something to change the world, I’ve got a great project for them—is to develop an inflammatory index, because inflammation is the biggest connector to diseases. If we can have a way of measuring the inflammatory potential of food in a very cheap, fast and reproducible way, and then even label those foods, with 100% being the best that there is. If you had a bowl of strawberries with an inflammatory index of 90, and they were small, and you know, irregular or something. And then you have these great big, honkin’, beautiful strawberries. But they had an inflammatory index of say 20 or 10. And they were about $1 a pound and the organic ones were $1 to $1.50 a pound, what would you buy? If you have a reason to see where the value of your money was coming from then I think it would be a natural driver to encourage the farmers to look at that nutrition because you have customers who are willing to pay for that because it was a real value. It’s not so easy. We’ve been experimenting with cell cultures in Italy. We’ve been working on this project for five years or more, and we haven’t been successful in coming up with something that’s really easy and reproducible. But I think that that could be a real driver in changing how we look at our food.

Andy Vantrease  57:01
Yeah, and you just mentioned that being a help to people who could then be buying based on that. And it seems like with what you’ve done—gotten out of the commodity business and started growing a lot more of the Kamut and started Kamut International and switched over to ancient grains and started growing food, you really had to find buyers that were willing to pay more. It seems like you veered away from that industrial system and kind of created your own…

Bob Quinn 
project!

Andy Vantrease
Yes, that just goes so well with the experimentation. But just finding people that would pay what you’re asking for because you are preserving the value of everything that goes into growing the food that you grow.

Bob Quinn  57:53
And the reason it costs more is our yields were quite a bit lower. So, we had to pay the farmers, and we wanted to—I’m a farmer myself. We’re always put upon by people who want to extract as much as they can, so we put together a program where everybody wins. That was the goal. Everybody wins. Starting with the farmers. So, the farmers were paid a very good price for this grain, even though the yield was lower, but they were paid way more than the commodity prices at even the organic grain, so that they could overcompensate for the lower yield. You have to have something that gives the people on the other side who are buying it and eating, a reason to pay more to buy and eat it. And the thing that we had going for us right from the very beginning was the taste. It tasted quite flavorful and nutty and better than what they were used to. As I mentioned earlier, you know, the taste is combined with the nutrition. We didn’t know that at the time, but they knew it tasted better. We had some people who felt better after they ate it, and they were willing to pay almost anything to feel good after they ate something that normally made them sick. Now they were eating something that made them feel better.

So, it’s not just smoke-and-mirrors. It’s not Madison Avenue creating some slick ad campaign that talks people into buying something. People could taste the difference; they could feel the difference when they ate it. The pasta makers in Italy, some of them said, “It smells like the pasta we had before World War II.” They had to be really old by then, but they could still remember what it was like in those early days. And how they lost that, but now they had it back—and their palate is much more critical than ours. But to say that this is some of the best pasta ever tasted, for an Italian to say that… this is an amazing thing!

No one’s trying to make a lot of extra money on this, but we’re all trying to have a fair return. A return that compensates us for our labors, so we can enjoy our life and provide for our families. And on the other hand, the buyers and eaters get a fair value for what they pay. It’s just the opposite of the quarterly balance sheet that so many of the big corporations make their decisions on. That’s all they focus on. In the end, it has to be viable economically. But our goal is not to become rich and have excess millions and all that kind of stuff. Our goal is to have nutritious food that is available in adequate supply to meet the people’s needs and desires.

Andy Vantrease  1:00:28
What I admire about you so much, just after reading your book, was being able to enrich people’s lives, both in the community that you grew up in and then around the world, the people who get to be a part of your businesses and eat your food. And so, I’m just curious what you want to share about what you’re up to: Quinn Farm, Big Sandy Organics, The Oil Barn, Kamut International, like what are you excited about right now that’s happening?

Bob Quinn  1:00:56
Well, you have to know, Andy, that I’m in my 75th year already. I decided that I needed a retirement program. So, I have developed a three-year retirement program, and I’m in the fourth year of it right now. But most of my goals have been met. One of the goals was to lease out the farm and let the next generation farm, because that’s a crying need, I think, for the younger folks to have an opportunity to farm. I had 40 years of opportunity, that’s enough! And now it’s time for the next generation to have a turn. So, they’re doing it now. I’m not involved with it anymore.

I retired from Kamut International, and my nephew has taken over my position there. So, he kept that in the family. And all the rest of the businesses I’ve tried to sell off. I sold off Big Sandy Organics to the employees. I sold Montana Flour and Grain several years ago to employees. And I didn’t have quite the same luck with The Oil Barn, but it’s going to an organic farmer a little over 100 miles away, and they can continue in the same kind of philosophy that we tried to start here. And that’s the philosophy that we use the raw materials that we can grow on our farms to add value to and add jobs back to the communities and keep as much as possible local. The Kamut project went all over the world, not because that’s what I thought it should do, but that just evolved from what people wanted.

My focus and desire has always tried to be on supporting and enhancing the local communities, enjoying more local food. So, I’ve downsized my farm now from 4,000 to four acres, and on that four acres, I’m trying to grow all my own food. I’m up to about 85% of what I eat on a daily basis is what I grow. And that was hampered a little bit the last couple years with drought and grasshoppers, and I’m experimenting now with dryland vegetable production. We can’t do everything with dryland, but if you start to look at what’s happening in California now and wondering how long they’re going to have water to water their vegetables there, which feeds a huge percentage of the population in this country… when we could be growing our own basic vegetables, at least throughout the whole country and every region could have their own vegetable production. It will cost a little more, so that gets back again to the high cost of cheap foods: You’re going to be paying a little bit more for that local production, generally, because they don’t have the economies of scale. They’re not using a lot of times the highest-producing, highest-yielding seeds because they’re looking at what’s locally adapted instead of what’s commercially available in certain regions of the country. But in the end, we will be much more secure in our food and have food security, besides having local jobs and fresher food. And fresher food converts into more nutritious food, too.

Then the last project I have is to donate about 600 or 700 acres of my farm to create a Regenerative Organic Research and Education Center. If you know anybody that has a real big need for a tax write off and believes in growing your own food and connecting health and food, just let me know. We want to show people what can be done with regenerative organic and incorporating animals, too, with no-till organic, which has been elusive for us. We want to have gardens where people can be taught; the educational portion of it will be classes where people can come and actually learn by doing, plant gardens and learn how to cultivate them and then have a culinary aspect where they can actually bring the products of those gardens into the kitchen and learn what to do with a summer squash or something that people are used to getting out of cans or not buying at all. Then we’d like to have a health practitioner on board that prescribes not pills but food from the farm to help with people’s chronic diseases. So, we want to tie the whole picture together in something that is helping a lot of people and be holistic.

Andy Vantrease  1:05:03
Beautiful. The last question that I have is, you know, the tagline for our podcast, The Dandelion Effect Podcast, is “the magic of living a connected life.” What comes up when I ask you what it means to you to live a connected life?

Bob Quinn  1:05:19
Everything is connected. And that’s why it’s really important to think quite deeply about radical changes and how you implement those. I’m really big on radical changes, but I don’t think we should do it by next weekend. I think that we need to think about how that can be done in a successful, sustainable way. My goal and vision for the future is that we can take the 6% that makes up organic sales in America today—and it’s gone from about 0% to 6% in 35 years—to take the next 35 years at the current growth rate will put us at 100%. That is connected to so many other things that it all has to be taken into account to make it happen.

Every generation starts out with all kinds of enthusiasm: We’re going to fix the world and change the world and all this stuff. I see some of the current generation getting discouraged quicker than they should be. The problems are greater, I mean, that’s just the way it is. But also, your talents are greater! Your capacity for understanding can be greater with all the information you have—make good use of that. And if you can replace them in a thoughtful way that’s better than what we had before, then we can continue to make progress and sustain ourselves.

Andy Vantrease  1:06:51
Bob Quinn. It’s hard to put into words how much his work has shaped the world, from Big Sandy, Montana–a town of 600 people—to across the pond in Italy, where their culture of pasta and pizza is far too strong to allow modern agriculture to ruin thousands of years of flavor and nutrition.

I personally loved reading his book and learned so much about what has happened in agriculture over the last 75 years and the benefits of experimenting with adding certain varieties of wheat back into my diet. I’ve studied and tested many different ways of eating in the last several years on a journey to heal my body, but I’ve never heard this research about ancient wheat versus modern wheat. I certainly jumped on the gluten-free train thinking that I wasn’t gaining anything from grains at all and perhaps there was no reason to have them in my diet.

After reading Grain by Grain and talking with Bob Quinn, I’ve found Kamut and farro berries to cook for hot cereal, breads and English muffins made from Kamut flour and wraps made from sprouted Einkorn. I’m in the beginning stages of experimenting, and I’m curious to know if you’ve been inspired to also test out some of these products to see if you can feel a difference in your own mind and body.

To learn more about Bob Quinn, visit bigsandyorganics.com. And if you enjoyed this episode, you might also like the conversation I had with Jim Barngrover, Episode 17: Regenerating Our Food, Soil, and Community.

A special thank you to Matthew Marsolek and the Drum Brothers, whose music you hear at the beginning and end of this podcast, as well as Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen, who first turned us on to the phenomenon of the Dandelion Effect and how ideas move through the world.

This podcast is a production of the Feathered Pipe Foundation, a 501c3 dedicated to healing, education, community and empowerment. If you’d like to help support this project, please visit FeatheredPipe.com/gratitude or leave a review on Apple podcasts and share with your friends. Be sure to tune in to our next episode in two weeks. We cannot wait to share another amazing conversation with you. Until then, have a beautiful day!