Bob Quinn: writes a book, "Grain by Grain"


February 20, 2019

Connie Green called me and asked me if I had read Bob Quinn's book Grain by Grain yet. I told her I hadn't but that I planned to. Connie told me it was a really good book, and she thought everyone in Big Sandy should read it. She said it held her interest clear to the end. It was just an amazing book. I've read it now and believe anyone in agriculture should read it. Anyone interested in eating healthier should read it too.

There will be a chance to buy a copy at the book reveal at the Big Sandy Library, Tuesday, March 5th at 2:30 PM – 6 PM. Everyone in Big Sandy knows Bob, but reading this book helps us understand the why of his activities and it's intriguing.

The book isn't just about Bob's journey in agriculture, but a history of agriculture in general. Not everyone will agree with his interpretation of events but it will encourage living discussion and new thought processes. From the introduction: Food on the Cheap, "I remember the day I stopped trying to grow food on the cheap."

"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. Over the course of my lifetime, Americans cut in half the percentage of their income they spent on food. The number of Americans working in agriculture dwindled too; from nearly 6.7 million in 1947, the year I was born to just 2 million today. These trends were hailed as signs of progress."

"This is a book about how to add that value back where it belongs, not only to the end product-our food-but to the entire food system. As an entrepreneur and scientist working in the midst of rural America poverty, I have seen firsthand how putting food and other fundamental goods like energy at the center of a value-added economy can foster health, economic opportunity, and ecological regeneration, particularly in some of our country's poorest communities. The truth is, cheap stuff isn't really cheap-the bill just comes due somewhere downstream or down the line. Likewise, adding value isn't expensive-it's actually a remarkable efficient way to reduce the soaring costs of health care, poverty, and environmental degradation, all of which are putting a strain on our national budget. Adding value to our food means we can regenerate land instead of destroying it. We can revitalize rural communities instead of giving up on them. We can help people instead of making them sick."

In chapter two you read about his first science experiment, a desalination model, in the third grade in Big Sandy. He started going to a science institute at the University of Iowa when he was a sophomore. He finished his bachelor's and master's degrees in botany at MSU and went on to get his PHD at UC Davis. He tells of the one field trip, and conversations, that is changing his direction in agriculture. He was looking forward to eating a fresh peach. They were headed out to the orchard and were told the peach harvest was just starting. In his mind that meant fresh juicy ripe peaches he could sink his teeth in. He loved eating fresh peaches, however when they got to the farm the peaches looked ripe but were as hard as an apple. He writes, "when my professor and the peach farmer started laughing about the way those peaches were "ripened"-using a petroleum-based spray developed by the professor that changed their color artificially

-I was horrified. For as long as humans had been eating peaches people had relied on their senses to tell when the fruit was ripe and to judge it quality. That's how we'd size up peaches when I was a kid: if it looked good, it was. Now two unscrupulous profiteers were poised to change all that, denying the rest of us not only quality, ripe peaches but even the ability to know one when we saw one. My disgust only deepened as I realized the punch line of their joke was how they'd buried the results of their trials in an obscure journal overseas to avoid public scrutiny. This wasn't the science I'd fallen in love with as a youth, the science that endeavored to uncover the inner workings of nature's genius for the benefit of humanity. This was manipulative. Literally tasteless. And potentially harmful. "

The rest of the book takes the reader through Bob's complete journey. Every step is thought provoking and stimulating. I remember interviewing Bob this last summer about his dry land garden, and he told me that he walked it every day he was home because it was his science laboratory. It makes sense to me now. He was a scientist as a child, continued his education and remains a scientist to this day. A scientist that cares about his community and rural life everywhere. He makes his discoveries easy and fun to read yet inspiring!

Put March 5th on your calendar.


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