Quinn Institute wants to help farmers grow better food

Quinn Institute wants to help farmers grow better food
Quinn Institute wants to help farmers grow better food

SOUTHEAST OF BIG SANDY — When it comes to farming in Montana, Bob Quinn is a true pioneer. He’s the man who brought us tasty Kracklin’ Kamut snacks. And he also helped develop Montana’s first wind farm near Judith Gap.

Now the world-renowned organic farming expert has opened his farm 12 miles southeast of Big Sandy to help the industry reach another milestone.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held at the Quinn Institute on Tuesday.

According to developer Bob Quinn, the motto is “Healing the earth by growing food as medicine.”

The 700-acre donated land is a regenerative organic research, education and health project that Quinn says will provide education, answers and encouragement to anyone who wants to transform their farming into a more sustainable and less chemical-dependent food operation.

After ten or more years of dreaming of a regenerative, organic research, education and health institute, it is now a reality,” said Quinn,

Nearly 100 people attended the tours and opening. The tour was part of the Montana Organic Association’s summer tour program.

Quinn describes the opening of the Quinn Institute as the culmination of his life’s work, which is based on the realization that food should be medicine.

“The goal of this institute is to help farmers grow better food,” Quinn said. “That can be used medically to stem the tide of chronic disease and other problems in this country that are largely due to the type of diet we eat, the lack of nutrients and all the additives and everything we have.”

The Quinn Institute is divided into several large fields that demonstrate agricultural systems, including the interactions between livestock, native pastures, and various crop rotations.

The tour included a close look at the institute’s potato and winter wheat fields.

Quinn said he planted about 2,000 potato plants in four different varieties. He estimates they will yield over 4,000 pounds of food, much of which will be donated to local schools.

Participants also participated in a field trip that included information on integrated fertility management in dryland organic farming systems, weed monitoring systems, lentil, safflower and chickpea fields, hemp for saline seepage remediation and an ergothioneine study.

Participants learned what the institute is all about and the huge impact organic farming has on Montana’s most important industry.

“Montana is a great place for organics,” said Christy Clark, director of the Montana Department of Agriculture. “We have clean water, clean soil, clean air. We are ideal for organics. And the Quinn Institute adds another layer to that.”

Leased land from a neighboring non-organic farm will allow for comparative studies at the Quinn Institute that go beyond fields and farmland. The campus will include small gardens, orchards, a teaching kitchen, and small processing facilities.

Quinn says the institute has already benefited from a grant in collaboration with Montana State University’s Central Ag Research Center in Moccasin, Montana.

“It’s actually the first time we’ve applied for a start-up grant and received a positive response,” Quinn said. “The result of that is a multi-year study of different farming systems and their impact on soil microbial populations, which then translate into the nutrient density of plants and grains at harvest.”

“We need to get back to getting paid for nutrition,” Quinn said. “Wouldn’t it be great if farmers were paid per acre for nutrients instead of per bushel per acre?

Quinn compares the human body to a car. He says that if we put the best oil in our vehicles, why shouldn’t we treat the body in a similar way?

“The human body is the most wonderful machine ever invented,” Quinn said. “But sometimes we don’t take care of it properly. I hope they start thinking about the importance of food, how it is grown and how healthy it can be for our lives and the lives of our families.”