Because of Montana’s massiveness, I think it’s only apropos that I devote two farming stories to my middle-of-nowhere Scobey adventure before moving onto Michigan and Missouri the next two weeks, where, respectively, I learned about organic farming and reconnected with my roots. For this week however, I am honored to highlight the Farvers, a 4th-generation farming family, while also discussing lentils and chickpeas—two hearty healthy options I highly recommend for Thanksgiving. But before sharing my many reasons why I recommend lentils and chickpeas (which is totally worth knowing), let me first define “pulse crops” (hang with me here).
What are Pulse Crops?
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), pulse crops (lentils, chickpeas, dried peas and beans) are “annual leguminous crops (plants of the pea family) yielding between one and 12 grains or seeds of variable size, shape and color within a pod, used for both food and feed. The term ‘pulses’ is limited to crops harvested solely for dry grain, thereby excluding crops harvested green for food, which are classified as vegetable crops, as well as those crops used mainly for oil extraction and leguminous crops that are used exclusively for sowing purposes.”
If you’re still with me after all that, know that pulse crops grow well on Scobey’s prairies and (and this is a really big AND), the 68th United Nations General Assembly declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses (IYP). So…they must be kind of important to have had an entire year devoted to raising awareness and education of these packed-with-power pea-related foods.
Why are Pulses Important?
I had never heard the term “pulse” crops nor, until recently, had I paid attention to lentils and chickpeas. Where I grew up, we did not eat such things, and thus I didn’t take notice of them until just a few years ago when I got turned onto lentil soup and hummus, two of my favs now. (Maybe that 2016 international campaign is working).
Besides their deliciousness, the FAO claims that pulses are packed with six reasons why we should add them to our meal planning. I’m totally convinced. See what you think:
- Pulses provide a vital source of plant-based proteins for people and amino acids (needed for almost every system throughout our bodies), thereby ensuring food security—the measure of the availability of food and individuals’ ability to access it.
- As part of a healthy diet high in fiber, pulses fight obesity.
- Pulses also prevent and help manage chronic diseases such as diabetes, coronary conditions, and cancer.
- Livestock benefit from the plant-based protein pulses provide.
- Pulses pull nitrogen from the air into the soil, increasing soil fertility.
- Using less water than most other protein crops, pulses make a sustainable agricultural choice. (Think Montana droughts).
Cahill Seeds sent me back with a suitcase full of pulses. Thank you Cahill!! Below is my masterpiece pesto hummus that I made from chickpeas, tahini (sesame seeds and olive oil) and freshly-grown basil. Great with crackers and added to sandwiches.
“From Our Fields to Your Fork”
Besides chickpeas, I came home with lovely lentils too, and had the pleasure of meeting some of the folks behind Farver Farms, who happen to grow a lot of lentils. I was amused by one of Shauna Ferguson-Farver’s blog posts about how she “trekked up to her grain bin for a bucketful of lentils” so she could make chicken lentil salad for dinner. Who does that? I mean, fetch lentils from a towering bin. I go to the store for my lentils. Anyway, to help you grasp the spirit of this family, let me start by quoting their website intro which I love almost as much as I love Thanksgiving.
“Before you know anything else about us, you should know that we are so incredibly grateful for our lifestyle. The opportunity to work together side-by-side every day, raise kids right smack in the middle of rural America, and see the miracle of growth in every new season is one we don’t take for granted.”
See what I mean?
Grateful entrepreneurs who value the miracle of life in their every day. What’s not to love about that mindset?
The Farvers consist of Terry and Shauna (whom I already mentioned), and their three children—two sons and a daughter. In 1926, Terry’s maternal great grandfather, C.K. Hanson, purchased the homestead and part of the farm where they now reside.
Lentil Crunchers and Meal Mixes
Shauna was gracious enough to give me a quick tour of their little factory located in town where they make all their yummy lentil cruncher snacks and meal mixes. I had to mask up, glove up, and put booties on my boots. Food is serious business with government regulations longer than a Thanksgiving shopping list. As Charlie Cahill had told me earlier when I toured Cahill Seeds, “The government’s not here. But trust me they are here.”
After my tour, Shauna sent me off with a bunch of lentil heartiness, in which I used to make chicken enchiladas. See photos in slide show below. 🙂 Order some meal mixes for yourself and add some pulses to your Thanksgiving meal this year. (And by the way, I don’t get a single cent for that endorsement. I just like lentils).
Before wrapping up my Farver Farms factory tour, I had the pleasure of briefly meeting Shauna’s husband, Terry, who happened to drop by before I left. Which brings me to this:
Agriculture, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “ranks among the most hazardous industries. Farmers are at very high risk for fatal and nonfatal injuries; and farming is one of the few industries in which family members (who often share the work and live on the premises) are also at risk for fatal and nonfatal injuries.”
Yes, That was Foreshadowing
During my visit, I was told of a local farmer who had fallen off a hay wagon, broke his neck, and is now paralyzed. Neighboring farmers rallied together to help with his crops. You can hear more of his story on the first episode of the Cutting Fences podcast, “I Laid there in the Snow.”
But then a few weeks after I returned to Florida, Terry Farver was digging a trench to lay pipes to a farm building when it collapsed and buried him. Pipes are laid deep in Northeast Montana so they don’t freeze during winter. And from what I was told, because of the dry conditions this year, the hole gave way. Thanks to his son-in-law, who started digging him out with his hands, Terry is still with us today. By time medics arrived, his son-in-law had gotten Terry’s head above ground so he could breathe, but his injuries were extensive and critical. Neighboring farmers rallied together to harvest the Farver’s crops this year.
Not to be overly dramatic, but these two stories, both from the same farming community, put faces and families to otherwise impersonal statistics. Farmers are at high risk for injuries. It can be easy to wonder, like I did when shadowing farmers from Cahill Seeds, “Who signs up for this?”
Further Defining “Farmer”
The more I spent with farmers, the more I came to understand that regardless of the risks, farmers are born to farm, just like I need to write to breathe. They are naturally and fiercely independent lovers of the land, free-thinkers and problem-solvers; calculated risk takers, hard workers, and overcomers. But regardless of who they are, one thing is certain, farmers are the ones who make Thanksgiving meals possible by providing for our bellies.
And for that, I am quite thankful.
And thank you too, Shauna and Terry at Farver Farms for your time and genuine spirit. Terry, I wish you a full and speedy recovery. Overcome like I suspect you already know how to do!
I encourage all my readers out there to give Farver Farms’ pulse products a try this Thanksgiving season.
And finally, to end my time in Scobey, here’s a little poem I wrote after coming back from four-wheeling through the fields and prairies. Ahhh, what an amazing time!
“Just Another Day in Scobey, MT”
Wheaties and blueberries,
elk summer sausage and lentil brownies,
walleye fished from a lake,
homemade bread freshly baked.
Picking choke cherries
for red, red wine,
it’s so fine,
all the time.
with fields of lentils on either side
stretching far beneath the big, big sky.
Scent of wild sage in the air,
Grasshoppers jumping in my hair.
Gopher, antelope, and mule deer,
a spooked Jack rabbit over there,
sharp-tailed grouse, hawks, and doves,
known as Huns,
This massive Montana land,
so amazing, so godly grand.
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Next week we’re heading to Michigan where I learn about organic farming and wind turbines. See you there.