An organic farmer and entrepreneur in Montana shares his experiences and ideas for changing the way America produces its food.
The organic spokesman’s story is co-authored by Carlisle (Lecturer/School of Earth, Energy, and Environmental Sciences/Stanford Univ.), whose previous book, Lentil Underground (2015), also focused on an entrepreneurial Montana-based organic farmer. After her explanatory prologue, Carlisle remains hidden so that the experiences and the opinions represent Quinn’s voice. The book is partly memoir: Readers learn about Quinn’s upbringing on a Montana farm, his various ventures into organic farming, his work to improve soil quality, and his launching of a wind farm and biofuel project. However, the text serves mainly as an argument about the necessity of valuing quality in food and how it can help heal people instead of making them sick, alleviate poverty by rebuilding rural communities, and reduce damage to the environment. Central to the story is an ancient grain from Mesopotamia that Quinn experimented with and the building of Kamut International, a large wheat corporation operating internationally. The picture that emerges is that of an experienced farmer and a resourceful, community-minded businessman. Quinn’s tale is also a diatribe against America’s widespread agricultural-industrial complex. He rails against “Americans’ fiercely held attachment to cheap consumer goods, particularly cheap food. Transformed from producers into consumers at the same time as their economic status diminished, the American middle class insisted on lower and lower prices, spurred on by corporations like Walmart and McDonald’s.” That’s the bad news. Quinn does provide evidence of progress, as more and more people, especially millennials, are becoming informed consumers, interested in where their food comes from and how it is produced, and an increasing number are becoming farmers, producing organically and selling locally. The few black-and-white photographs scattered throughout add little to the text, which stands alone quite well.
A compelling agricultural story skillfully told; environmentalists will eat it up.