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Montana Lentil Farmers Go Against the Grain To Build Thriving Organic Business

David Oien doesn’t seem like a renegade. He’s a friendly, down-to-earth, third-generation Montana farmer. But Oien and his fellow farmers at Timeless Seeds are renegades. In Montana, a state dominated by conventional wheat, Oien and Timeless Seeds went against the grain by growing organic lentils and other specialty crops in a region where they had never been grown before. And they’ve been successful doing it while building healthy soils on thousands of acres in Montana and helping to revive rural communities.

‘We Needed to Build Soil Health’

Back in the late 1980s, Oien and his three fellow organic farmers, Bud Barta, Jim Barngrover, and Tom Hastings, had no plans to build a business growing and selling organic lentils for food. They just wanted to build soil health.

Wheat is king in Montana with 12 million acres of it grown each year. The state’s farmers grow wheat and then let their fields lay fallow, exposed to the elements.