Grain by Grain, is more than the story of how organic farmer Bob Quinn sought to revive and cultivate an ancient variety of Khorasan wheat on his family farm in Montana. The book is also an insightful analysis of the value-extractive model of our current system of agriculture and how it undermines our health, independence, and global stewardship goals.
Bob Quinn follows an ethical and agricultural philosophy fundamentally based on enhancing and regenerating value. The ancient strain of Khorasan wheat that he grows organically, and sells to various organic bakers, pasta and cereal companies under the name Kamut™, has significantly higher nutritive benefits than commercial wheat. Studies show that consuming this ancient variety of wheat largely diminishes systemic inflammatory digestive reactions often attributed to gluten intolerance.
With the help of talented journalist Liz Carlyle, Grain by Grain tells how Quinn, a trained plant biochemist, first became inspired by organic agriculture in the late 1970’s, and thereafter began to adopt and employ organic and regenerative farming methods (plus a few of his own) on his family farm in Montana.
More importantly, the book conveys Bob’s indefatigable and optimistic determination to create and sustain an agricultural enterprise always focused on the highest and broadest value possible for both the benefiit of people and the planet.
In this pursuit, Bob sought overlappping “closed-loop” sustainable practices that would both enhance and empower his farm and community. He selected seeds for nutrition rather than their yield potential, grew his own non-chemical soil inputs in the form of “cover crops” that would support the vitality of the soil, make the grains more nutritious, and enhance the economic independence of his local community.
Another example of Bob’s broader vision of value is demonstrated by the “price-to-value ratio” he set for selling his grain. In the contracts Bob signed with the farmers who were delighted to grow the crop he priced and sold at three times the rate of “conventional” wheat, Bob demanded they also set a high value the health of the soil. He required them to limit the percentage of their land that they devoted to the cultivation of Kamut™. In this way Bob was able to remove the incentive to cultivate the grain commercially at the expense of the soil, encourage farmers instead to regenerate their fields with cover crops during the off-seasons.
By planting global goals right into the groundwork of his contracts, Bob was able to create a more holistic approach to the business of farming, keeping financial profit within the context of a much larger ecological and social perspective.
According to Bob “Organic is more than an industry or a bottom line, it’s a conversion of outlook. It’s a love for the earth, which we can demonstrate by caring for it. It’s a love for our neighbors, shown by producing healthy, nutritious food. It’s a love for our communities, by recognizing and appreciating the hard work of farmers and all the people working in the food sector by ensuring all receive fair wages to support and raise their families. It’s about human health, community health, and the health of our planet.”