Lentil Underground Audiobook

The Lentil Underground audiobook, narrated by 2017 Audie Award winner for Best Female Narrator Tavia Gilbert, will be released Tuesday, November 21 on Tantor. Follow this link to listen to a sample clip and preorder your copy. We’re curious what you think would be the perfect Montana road trip for listening to it!

David Oien wins Outstanding Agricultural Leader Award

October 16, 2017 — Jenny Lavey for the MSU News Service.  Find the story online here.

BOZEMAN – A third-generation Montana farmer with a philosophy degree who spent 30 years shepherding Montana agriculture into the forefront of organic and alternative crop production has been named the MSU College of Agriculture and Montana Agricultural Experiment Station’s 2017 Outstanding Agricultural Leader.

The public is invited to congratulate David Oien, co-founder of Timeless Seeds Inc., at a Montana-made breakfast at 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 4, in Shroyer Gym, located in MSU’s Marga Hosaeus Fitness Center. The breakfast is part of the college’s annual Celebrate Agriculture event scheduled for Nov. 3-4.

MSU Vice President of Agriculture Charles Boyer said Oien’s history as a respected advocate for diversifying Montana dryland production and as a lifelong proponent of sustainable, organic systems is an example for current agricultural students.

“Long before pulse crops were popular in Montana, before organic and natural foods were trendy, before ‘sustainable’ and ‘renewable’ were terms farmers regularly used, David Oien was quietly changing the landscape of Montana agriculture as one of the state’s first organic farmers,” Boyer said. “His grassroots story and life’s work in encouraging alternative, sustainable food production and a new crop frontier is something Montana agriculture owes a great debt to.”

The Outstanding Agricultural Leader award is given annually to individuals or couples who are engaged and well-respected in the state’s agricultural community. Recipients have impacted many with their accomplishments, have a lifetime of achievement in agriculture, are industry leaders or innovative producers, and are actively involved in Montana’s agricultural community.

Robert Boettcher, a Montana farmer and former Outstanding Agricultural Leader in 2003 who is a longtime friend of Oien’s, nominated Oien for the award. Supporting letters detail Oien’s years of public service and agricultural innovation. Letters were received from Alternative Energy Resources Organization, Montana Farmers Union, Montana Department of Agriculture, Montana Milling, Stanford University, U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, and several current and retired MSU faculty representing agronomy, soil, land resources and health and human development fields. The letters also describe Oien’s early adoption of organic practices and his gentle, steadfast commitment to bring increased research, attention and support to alternative cropping systems and new crops to farmers in the Northern Great Plains, according to authors.

Oien is a third-generation Montana farmer whose Norwegian grandparents homesteaded in the early 1900s south of Conrad. He was raised on the family wheat farm and received a degree in philosophy and religious studies in 1976 and later returned to the family farm to transform production to an organic-based system.

Nomination letters detail the history of Timeless Seeds Inc., which Oien co-founded in 1987, together with friends and fellow farmers Bud Barta, Jim Barngrover and Tom Hastings. The trio had a goal to market a self-reseeding leguminous cover crop variety called George Black Medic, which had been developed by the late MSU agronomy and research professor Jim Simms, whom Oien considered a trusted mentor and dear friend until his passing last year.

In the beginning, Timeless Seeds Inc. consisted of a few outbuildings on Oien’s property south of Conrad: a chicken house, equipment shed and a garage, according to Boettcher. The original mission of the company was to introduce new crops to conventional Montana farming and share the benefits of lentils that provided natural nitrogen and green manure, built organic matter and conserved soil moisture.

In the 1980s in Montana agriculture, growing organic, alternative crops was counterculture to that of widely practiced conventional agriculture in wheat-fallow systems that used synthetic fertilizer. Nomination letters lauded Oien’s persistence as a risk-taker and suggested Oien’s philosophy background formed his ability to engage in contentious discussions thoughtfully and critically, forming relationships with agriculture-minded people from all walks of life.

As natural foods and cropping systems became more popular, Oien was deeply engaged in conversations, policy and advocacy work advancing the diversification of Montana dryland agriculture by encouraging farmers to replace fallow fields with pulse crops and advocating the ecological and sustainable benefits of organic-based systems.

Oien’s role in introducing farmers in the Northern Great Plains to alternative crops and organic systems and developing markets for new crops over the last 25 years was chronicled in the acclaimed book, “Lentil Underground,” by Liz Carlisle, a Montana native and Stanford University lecturer who won the 2015 Montana Book Award. Today, Timeless Seeds has transformed into Timeless Foods Inc., which supplies national grocery chains, food manufactures and food service distributors with high-quality, organic, specialized grains and is one of the largest organic lentil seed buyers and suppliers in America, according to its website. In 2016, the United Nations declared the year as the “International Year of the Pulse Crop,” and Montana celebrated its role as the country’s top producer of pulse crops with 1 million acres planted, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

Throughout the years, Oien has been active on many boards and committees promoting organic agriculture and pulse crops, including charter memberships with Pondera Solar Alliance, Alternative Energy Resources Organization Ag Task Force, local organic farmer chapters, Montana Organic Certification Advisory Committee, the Montana Organic Association as well as the Montana Manufacturing Extension Center In 2008, he received a lifetime of service award from the Montana Organic Association, and AREO’s 40th Anniversary Leadership in Sustainability.

He has helped and mentored many Montana farmers as they transition crop management into organic systems and systems that use less energy and are ecologically regenerative and economically sound. He also worked closely with MSU faculty on a variety of research projects, mentored students and supported learning practicums for MSU students in the Sustainable Foods and Bioenergy Systems major.

Oien is married to Sharon and the two have three grown children; Sara, Adam and Chris.

The selection committee for the Outstanding Agricultural Leader award comprises three Montana agriculture representatives, a College of Agriculture faculty member and an MSU student. MSU’s College of Agriculture has presented Outstanding Agricultural Leader awards since 1999.

LU selected as this year’s “Griz Read” to be read by all incoming University of Montana students

From the University of Montana website:

The purpose of the Griz Read is to provide new students with a common connection through a thought-provoking book. Each year, a committee of faculty, staff, and students select a book from nominations submitted by the campus community.
All members of the campus community, especially first-year students, are encouraged to read the book and participate in Griz Read events. First-year students are invited to participate in the Griz Read events and essay contest.

We believe that books forge powerful bonds and we are excited to begin the campus discussion this year!

More info about Lentil Underground Griz Read events and in September (and the essay contest) here: https://www.umt.edu/provost/events/grizread/

We Made Food Network’s Best Food in America!

Here’s a great story of grassroots collaboration:

Local organic farmers grew the lentils, chickpeas, and heritage grains;

A local farmer-owned business cleaned and distributed them;

A local chef featured them in creative dishes;

A local independent journalist and photographer captured their beauty.

And that’s how the Lentil Underground made it into Food Network’s Best Food in America!  (See slide 22)

Congratulations to all of you: Timeless Natural Food growers and staff, Chef Claudia Galofre-Krevat, and Photographer Lynn Donaldson for this well deserved nod from the Food Network!

Key Message for the Trump Era: Sustainable Agriculture = Green Jobs

From the Organic Broadcaster (a MOSES publication):

Agriculture needs sustainable ‘belowground ecology’

By Liz Carlisle

As evidenced by the recent presidential election, the economy is on everyone’s mind. Old binaries pitting environment against economy (a battle the environment will always lose) are back in vogue. It’s up to the sustainable agriculture community to spread the good news that there is a hopeful third way: we can create green jobs with “triple bottom line” businesses that prioritize people and the planet as well as profits.

Triple bottom line businesses focused on sustainable agriculture are a hot topic in Silicon Valley, where I moved a year ago to take up a teaching position at Stanford University. For entrepreneurial types, it’s hard not to get excited by the steady growth of the organic sector and seemingly insatiable public hunger for its products. But what is often underappreciated is the underlying framework needed for truly sustainable agriculture. Just as a successful crop relies on the health of what’s underground, a successful business relies on a similar “belowground ecology” of supportive policies, infrastructure, and social movements.

As an example, a Montana business I’ve written about, Timeless Natural Food, strives to build a stable, premium market for ecologically appropriate rotation crops (mostly pulses like lentils and chickpeas), so that farmers can afford to grow them. They’ve been pretty successful, and I think they were critical catalysts in the move toward pulse crop rotation in Montana, which has created dramatic changes on the landscape. There happened to be a USDA Agricultural Census the year that Timeless was founded, 1987, so we know that Montana lentil acreage at that time was 1,979. By the 2012 census it was up to 198,741—a hundred-fold increase! That’s a lot of farmers who have added a nitrogen-fixing crop into a rotation that was likely just wheat/fallow or wheat/barley/fallow a couple decades ago.

But Timeless Natural Foods didn’t do it alone. To imagine that the costs of transitioning to sustainable agriculture across the American Heartland can be borne by individual small businesses is asking too much, and it’s a setup for well-meaning businesses to fail as they try to support environmental and social goods on their own. Farming is a hybrid public/private activity—the public needs to participate in incentivizing agriculture’s potential for public benefits, like healthy rural economies, healthy watersheds, carbon sequestration, and access to healthy food.

That’s why underneath any solid triple bottom line, there must be an underground teeming with activity by social movements like that spurred by Montana’s Alternative Energy Resources Organization (AERO). This nonprofit citizens’ organization, with funding from foundations like Kellogg, incubated 120 Farm Improvement Clubs that trialed and refined the sustainable farming practices that Timeless Natural Food now recommends to its growers. AERO also lobbied for a bill that would create a formal definition of “organic” in Montana, so they could market their products to consumers looking for this designation—and then lobbied for the state to create a certification program. AERO was among the groups that pushed for crop insurance to stop incentivizing monocultures and start covering “alternative” crops that were key to sustainable rotations. And, they’ve helped organize eaters and parents into a force for change in the Montana food system, which now has a strong farm-to-school movement.

If you’re reading the Organic Broadcaster, you no doubt know about the importance of this kind of patient change work, and you’ve likely been doing it longer than I’ve even been aware of it! Our challenge now is to define this work as the very essence of creating a “good business climate,” especially in the next four years.

I hope to see you next month at the MOSES Conference where we’ll explore ways to grow the belowground ecology of the organic and sustainable
farming movement.

Liz Carlisle is a teacher at Stanford University, and author of Lentil Underground. She will be the keynote speaker Saturday, Feb. 25 at the MOSES Conference.

Link to this article on the MOSES website

Events this fall in Wyoming, Kansas, and Saskatchewan

We’re honored to have been invited to speak with fellow groups of innovative sustainable farmers this fall!

In October, Liz and Dave head to Wyoming, with stops in Cody and at Northwest College in Powell.

In November, Dave keynotes at Organic Connections in Regina, Saskatchewan, and Liz will speak as well.  Later in the month, Liz will speak at the Kansas Rural Center’s Farm and Food Conference.

Check the events page for more information on all of these events — and stay tuned for details on Liz’s February keynote at MOSES (Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service) in Wisconsin!

Green Prize for Sustainable Literature

Lentil Underground just won a Green Prize for Sustainable Literature, joining such company as Bill McKibben’s Eaarth, Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, Van Jones’ The Green Collar Economy, Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything, and Dan Barber’s The Third Plate. Thanks to the Santa Monica Public Library and the City of Santa Monica’s Office of Sustainability and the Environment for this tremendous honor.

New York City Food Policy Center “20 Good Food Reads”

Lentil Underground is on this list!  And we’re in good company:

“The New York City Food Policy Center at Hunter College has created a list of 20 good food reads that are sure to whet your appetite. If you are looking for a textbook or a cookbook, look no further. Our list spans topics from food waste to the politics of soda to cooking on a budget of four dollars a day.”