Jim Barngrover has over four decades of experience in organic gardening, farming and marketing local and fairtrade products. In 1987, he co-founded Timeless Natural Foods, a company dedicated to alternative agriculture through annual legumes like peas and lentils. What began as a venture between four friends has put Montana on the map as America’s largest producer of lentils—and to this day Timeless is the only producer of heirloom organic lentils and specialty grains in the country.
As a part time lobbyist for AERO, Alternative Energy Resources Organization, Jim was instrumental in the passage of the Montana Organic Definition Act in 1991, and was awarded AERO’s 40th Anniversary Leadership in Sustainability Award in 2014. Now as a founding board member of Helena Community Gardens, Jim focuses on the organization’s mission of developing gardens within walking distance of every neighborhood in Helena MT.
In this conversation, Jim walks us through his journey from farmer’s son to ROTC student, activist, gardener, prison horticulture director, and back to farmer. In his young adult life, he moved from Wyoming to Montana in search of a more progressive existence and serendipitously stumbled into the Feathered Pipe Ranch after meeting India Supera in Missoula. Here, he felt more connected to the Earth and the land than he ever had before, and it sparked the inspiration for a life of service both for human health and environmental health.
Jim speaks to the chemically-dependent industrial farming complex in America, the reasons why he farms with organic and regenerative practices and encourages others to do the same, the lessons that he’s learned from working in harmony with the land, and how lentils work to reduce erosion, build organic matter, and provide natural nitrogen fertilizer for other crops. He’s hopeful about how many young farmers are making the shift to more sustainable practices and emphasizes how much power consumers have in the fight to change our food systems.
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