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Rotarians - People OF Action

 A special report prepared for Rotary International by the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies estimated the value of Rotary member volunteer hours at $850 million a year.

A plainsman with a PhD, Bob Quinn uses his 4,000-acre Montana spread as a laboratory to revive an ancient grain, rethink agricultural practices, and reinvigorate rural communities

by photography by 

The day slowly warms. It’s still summer, but in this late season of harvest, the mornings hold a stubborn chill that will not yield until the sun’s full appearance. Bob Quinn is dressed in his habitual raiment: soil-smudged cowboy hat, Wrangler jeans, Western shirt, work boots, thick belt with “Bob” tooled into the leather. He was awake before sunrise and now, as is often his routine, he pulls himself up a ladder inside a lookout tower he designed next to the handsome, sprawling farmhouse he helped build as a boy on a bluff at the end of a long upward-sloping lane. And there it is, spreading before him like an ocean of waving gold: the flaxen tips of spring wheat and spelt haired in rich amber, with the Bears Paw Mountains off to the north and east rising like a small fist of hazy purple on the north central Montana horizon.

There is work to be done. He will get at it in a minute, but he wants to savor the moment a bit longer. There is always work for those who look to the land for their keep, as Quinn has done for 40-odd years, and as his parents and his grandparents did before him — three generations of dryland farmers who have tilled this acreage since 1920.

Presently Quinn climbs down, grabs a basket, and heads toward his “test” orchard, where he experiments with 31 varieties of apples. He inspects the rows of trees one by one, then drops to his hands and knees and begins gathering apples that have plopped to the ground. “Some of them are bird pecked,” he says, holding up an apple and turning it in a work-weathered hand. “But that’s OK. These are looking pretty good.”

Quinn tosses the apple at me. “Just take a bite of this,” he says. On just about any other farm in the area, you would pause. Shouldn’t it be washed? Not here, for it, like everything on Quinn’s acreage, is organic — no pesticides, no herbicides, no chemical fertilizers. That’s the point; that’s his life’s work. It is why he looks out from his tower at the sea of grain surrounding him and worries.

For in this beautiful, sometimes punishingly harsh landscape, all is not well with the food that is grown, at least not from Quinn’s perspective. Like every-where, the fields are soaked in chemicals that, while allowing the corporations that farm them to cheaply produce vast stores of product, suck nutrients from the earth, from the food, and from the small communities that dot the plains. That includes the little town of Big Sandy, 10 miles north of Quinn’s 4,000-acre farm. He calls it the commodity mentality or mindset, “a high-input game [where] the prize is the highest possible yield” — consequences to small farms, small towns, and quality food be damned.

Redemption and renewal, Quinn believes, lie partly in this orchard and in his organic “oil barn” housed in a small building near his house. But more importantly, they rise from a long swath of land at the edge of his property, a pasture where this 21st-century plainsman grows an ancient Mesopotamian grain called khorasan that he believes holds no less than the power to change everything.

I meet Quinn on a Monday night at the weekly meeting of the Rotary Club of Big Sandy. Quinn’s connection to the club runs as deep as his connection to the town itself: His father, Mack, was a founding member. Quinn joined in 1979 after he returned from earning a PhD in plant biochemistry at the University of California at Davis. With crinkly blue eyes, a full head of silver hair, and a face that’s weathered without being quite craggy, Quinn looks as if he could have stepped out of the pages of a Zane Grey novel.

Like the high plains figure Quinn cuts, and like the town he calls home, the meeting seems a step back in time. Held in the senior citizens center at the end of the two-block downtown, it features on this night a dinner of fried chicken, cottage cheese, and potato salad, doled out from aluminum foil trays. There are cold pitchers of lemonade, and a seemingly bottomless stainless steel urn dispenses piping-hot coffee.

Fourteen people, including a visitor from Germany who uses Quinn’s grain, gather around a table where, after passing around worn copies of Rotary songs, they sing “Home on the Range” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag” before reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

Quinn joined Rotary, he says, for reasons bigger than wanting to continue the family legacy. He finds that the organization’s Four-Way Test — with its emphasis on truth and fairness, goodwill and friendship, and a mutual concern for the well-being of all — dovetails with his own way of thinking. “My philosophy in work is ‘everybody wins,’” he says. “The most successful businesses are the ones that are profitable but that also help improve the lives of other people.”

In his 2019 book, Grain by Grain, which chronicles his “quest to revive ancient wheat, rural jobs, and healthy food,” Quinn writes: “As an entrepreneur and scientist working in the midst of rural American 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 com-munities. ... I measure the success of my business by the degree to which it’s added economic, ecological, and nutritional value all along the supply chain.”

Today Quinn, at 72, travels the world spreading his gospel, which has as its premise that the way food is grown and produced — the Big Agriculture approach of making as much as possible as cheaply as possible, with a heavy emphasis on chemical pesticides and fertilizers — is destructive to the land, to communities, to farmers, and to our health. He also preaches the corollary: that organic farming not only is the right thing to do by consumers, but also is highly profitable for the farmer and a prescriptive for towns like Big Sandy that have found themselves struggling for survival.

The results have been as obvious as towering stalks of wheat, says Jon Tester, a U.S. senator from Montana whose life and career have also been closely intertwined with Big Sandy. “It’s simply undeniable what he’s done for the Big Sandy community,” Tester says. “He’s contributed jobs and a lot of economy to the town. We don’t have enough people like Bob. He’s fearless, a true entrepreneur who is not afraid to take risks, and at the same time he’s somebody who believes in rural America.”

Examples of Quinn’s entrepreneurial spirit, and the greater-good benefits that derive from it, bloom like apple blossoms across his property. On the occasional tours he gives, which draw workaday farmers and ivory-tower agriscientists, Quinn refers to his land as his laboratory. It’s clear why: There are his experimental gardens, of course, where he tries to see which fruits and vegetables can thrive in Montana’s notoriously fickle climate — if only, he says, “to show people we can do something other than wheat and barley.”

Ten feet underground, inside Quinn’s root cellar, bins of potatoes, all grown on the farm — Yukon Gems, Red Norlands, Red La Sodas, and Purple Vikings — are kept naturally cool. “Potatoes are particularly hardy for our northern climate, and they have an excellent shelf life,” Quinn says. A few hundred feet away is what he calls his oil barn. Inside, where Quinn milked cows as a boy, the seeds from farm-grown safflower are pressed into a cooking oil, which he sells to restaurants and grocery stores; it’s also used in the kitchens at the University of Montana, after which the waste is returned to Quinn. “The oil we get back from UM is enough to provide about one-eighth of the fuel needs for our farm,” he writes in Grain by Grain. (A pioneer in sustainable energy, Quinn played a leading role in creating the Judith Gap Wind Farm, which opened in central Montana in 2005.)

And then there is the ancient grain. Known as khorasan and rechristened — and trademarked — by Quinn as Kamut (pronounced kuh-MOOT), it likely originated centuries ago in the Fertile Crescent, that agriculturally rich region in the Middle East that gave birth to several ancient civilizations. Quinn was introduced to the grain at a county fair when he was in high school and an old man thrust a fistful of kernels in his hand and claimed they were “King Tut’s wheat.”

“I was amazed by how big they were: three times the size of the wheat we grew on our farm,” Quinn recalls in Grain by Grain. “I had no inkling that this grain would, some 25 years later, change the whole course of my life.”

Today, Kamut International is a global operation that, while promoting organic farming and healthful eating, also serves as a model for struggling farmers and small towns searching for a return to prosperity. “If you look at what Bob has pushed for and what he’s done, it’s not conventional,” allows Tester. “I mean, it’s not stuff that the university system would say, ‘Go do this.’ For example, in a time when [corporate farms] were shipping grain out in 52-car unit trains, he was setting up a cleaning plant to ship wheat out in 25-kilogram bags. He had a different vision for how you could market grain and make a few bucks off it and employ people.”

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Amigos Rotarians in Ethiopia for Service Work with Rotarians from West Allis and Menomonee Falls

Amigos Rotarians Frey Faris and Dorothy Krupa were recently in Frey's home country of Ethiopia for a service mission that included a Rotarian from the West Allis Club and another from the Menomonee Falls Club.  We will report more information as they come off of their jet lag and share with the club.
 
 

Rotary International News

Rotary Foundation receives highest rating from Charity Navigator for 12th consecutive year

For the 12th consecutive year, The Rotary Foundation has received the highest rating — four stars — from Charity Navigator, an independent evaluator of charities in the U.S.

The Foundation earned the recognition for demonstrating both strong financial health and commitment to accountability and transparency. Only one percent of the organizations Charity Navigator evaluates have received 12 consecutive 4-star evaluations.

"Attaining a 4-star rating verifies that The Rotary Foundation exceeds industry standards and outperforms most charities in your area of work", says Michael Thatcher, president and chief executive officer of Charity Navigator. "This exceptional designation sets the Foundation apart from its peers and demonstrates to the public its trustworthiness."

The rating reflects Charity Navigator's assessment of how the Foundation uses donations, sustains its programs and services, and practices good governance and openness.


New TRF Grant - Programs of scale grants coming soon

Programs of scale grants are a new type of grant from The Rotary Foundation. The Foundation will award one grant to a club or district each year in a competitive, two-step process that includes a proposal and application. The process begins in January, and the Foundation Trustees will award the first grant at their October/November 2020 meeting.

These grants support activities that last three to five years, benefit a large geographic area or a large number of people, and are aligned with one or more of Rotary’s areas of focus. The grant award is $2 million. No additional Rotarian funding is required. However it is anticipated that Rotarians will leverage additional resources from partnering organizations. These grants don’t require an international Rotary partner, but the activities must be implemented by working with a partner organization. They will fund only activities that have been used successfully in the past. New or untested activities aren’t eligible. Send questions to grants@rotary.org.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Articles in March/April issue of Milwaukee Ethnic News. These newsletters often list over 20 ethnic events and involve these groups (sampling):

Ojibwe, German, Jewish, African American, Welsh, Filipino, Armenian,  Mexican, French, Caribbean, Filipino, African, English, Indian, Southeast Asian, Croatian, Italian, Irish, Chinese, Ukrainian, American Indian, Latino, Kashubian, Quaker, International, and more


Amigos Rotarians Attended Various Rotary Conferences, Conventions, and Trainings

  • Amigos President-Elect Daniele Calasanzio attended the 3 day (March 6-8) President-Elect Seminar (PETS) in Illinois this past weekend to prepare for his year as the club President
  • Amigos Rotarian Angela Rester spoke to the Mitchell Field Club regarding the District 6270 Strategic Plan and next steps for the club to develop their own.
  • Amigos Rotarians Frey Faris and Dorothy Krupa participated in a service trip with Rotarians from West Allis Rotary and Menomonee Falls Rotary in October.
  • Representing Amigos Rotary, Marta Carrion and Angela Rester attended the District 6270 Rotary Foundation Celebration in West Bend, WI
  • District Membership Seminar at MATC Mequon was attended by Amigos Rotarians President Edwin Nyakoe Nyasani, President-Elect Daniele Calasanzio, and Past-President Angela Rester
  • Amigos Rotarians Erik Carranza, Marta Carrion, Daniele Calasanzio, Angela Rester, and Edwin Nyakoe Nyasani attended the District Training held at MATC Oak Creek
  • President Angie attended the Rotary District 6270 Changing of the Guard ending District Governor Kola Alayande's year and welcoming in District Governor Steen Sanderhoff.

Rotary Curious??

What Does it Take in Time?  
  • One in-person meeting per month
What's Expected of Me?
  • To represent your vocation and help us know about you and that vocation.
  • Be a person of high ethical standards.
  • Give some of your time to Service in the Greater Milwaukee community and / or internationally.
  • Share Rotary and the opportunity to make a difference in the world with your Rotary Family in ways you could not individually.
  • Have Fun and WANT to see your Rotary club members because you miss them when you don't.
 
Did you know that Rotary does not require weekly attendance even though we generally meet weekly?
  • Did you know that our project and volunteer service counts as attendance?

  • Did you know that you can do a Rotary make-up by attending another club meeting OR by going on-line and read several "programs" and then apply for a make-up?  Use these links to get started.

  • Rotary e club One - the original - /www.rotaryeclubone.org

  • Rotary Club of E-Club of the Southwest USA - https://www.recswusa.org

    Tuesday, May 14 - Not Without My Father: One Woman's 444-Mile Walk of the Natchez Trace - Author Andra Watkins

    Our meeting was fun, interesting, and enlightening.  New Rotarians were inducted, including one who we had missed in previous official induction ceremonies .  Erik Carranza and Melissa Rickey were formally inducted, as well as, Bonnie Lee.

    We  celebrated Amigo Rotarian Daniele Calasanzio naturalization that occurred in Atlanta on May 10, 2019.

    Our presenter was Rotarian Andra Watkins, featured in the January 2017’s Rotarian Magazine and is a New York Times best selling author. She is one of the only living persons to walk the 444-mile Natchez Trace as the pioneers did. She had a life-changing adventure with her 80-year-old father. Her NYT best selling memoir Not Without My Father chronicles that experience.  We LOVED her presentation!  Her honesty, her humor, her wisdom.
     
         

    Tuesday, May 7  - Catching Up - LOCATION - CORE El Centro 

    Members had an opportunity to catch up on where we are, where we have been, and what we have learned from "being out in the community" and hearing about issues and initiatives in the community.  Newest Future Rotarian, Ronald Rickey, was also in attendance. 
    Marta is developing a tool for Rotarians to indicate where they wish the club to focus resources in the community. Rotarians who wish to make a recommendation for the use of a District Grant will need to complete and submit to Angie by May 20 for the board to make within that next week.  Remember, a criteria for a grant request is a recently conducted needs assessment showing the community need and desire for the given project.  More information can be obtained at the District web site via this link.  Two Amigos Rotarians must also complete the training for District grants and if you are suggesting application then you must do so as well for the club.
      

    Thursday, May 2 - Rotary Amigos Table Sponsor and Attendance at CORE El Centro - CORE Momentum - 17th Anniversary -

    Image may contain: 5 people, people smiling, people sitting and indoorRotary Amigos is sponsoring a table at this wonderful event. 
     
    It was a FREE event though CORE El Centro hoped to enlighten everyone about their programs and purpose to inspire donations for their programs.
    According to attending Rotarians, they successfully shared their mission, purpose, and results!
     
    Paul Berger served as Table Host.

    Saturday, May 4 - 8:30-11:30 am - SERVICE DAY at Hunger Task Force Farm 

    Rotarians came together and made a big dent in the spreading of wood chips on trails to help the farmers and volunteers grow food.  This was a Rotary Partner Service Project with Rotary Clubs of Mitchell Field, New Berlin, West Allis, and Whitnall Park. 

     

     

     

     


    Saturday, April 27 - 9 am - Noon (Noon - 2 pm After Party) - SERVICE DAY - Annual Milwaukee Riverkeepers Clean-Up Day - Amigos Rotarians did this event last year

    Amigos is a partner with Milwaukee Riverkeepers and sponsors a segment of the Milwaukee River in Lincoln Park area.  Despite the cooler than usual weather, Rotarians Dorothy Krupa (volunteer chair / organizer on behalf of our club), Marta Carrion, Edwin Nyakoe Nyasani, Daniele Calasanzio, Angela Rester, and newest  member Erik Carranza cleaned up on Saturday. Dorothy noted that despite the amount of trash, there was about 1/3rd as much as the same time last year.  Noted was the large amount of plastic and styrofoam, along with candy and cigar packaging, as well as, needles and things we won't mention.  Clearly people need to clean up after themselves and their friends and family!
     
     
       
    Afterwards several of us went to the FREE celebration with Rock the Green in Estabrook Park .  We got to hear great music and visit numerous ecology-minded services and nonprofits serving our greater Milwaukee region.
     
    Tuesday, Sept. 25

    ROTARY IMPACT-WATER & SANITATION AROUND THE WORLD

    Rotary Foundation Global and District grants for District 6270 have been very successful in the past because they have involved members like you and I.  MANY decades ago, Past District Governor "Ozzie" Oswald created opportunities for clubs to give for wells in Haiti and India.  Today, Past District Governor Rick Debe is bringing new opportunities to our clubs as our 2018-2019 District 6270 Water and Sanitation Chair.

    Rick shared the following, "We are embarking on some larger Global grants for Water and Sanitation around the world. Our Clubs in #6270 are joining together to leverage and maximize our efforts.

    Tuesday, September 18 - District Governor Kola Alayande 

    District Governor Kola is a 2nd generation Rotarian and is a former Interactor, Rotaractor, AND Rotarian and may well be the only one in our District. He spoke to the club about growing the membership and staying true to Rotary without being so rigid that we don't grow or fulfill mission. As a change agent he hopes to inspire our clubs and individual Rotarians to stretch and do things differently so we remain vital and meaningful.  The board then met with Kola and reviewed what makes us an awesome club and how he and the district can better serve our club.  

    Pictured from left to right - Past District Governor, Amigos Founder and current President Angela Rester
    Daniele Calasanzio, Amigos International Director
    Kola Alayande, District Governor 2018-2019
    Edwin Nyakoe Nyasani - Amigos Secretary and President Nominee for 2020-2021
     
    Thursday, September 13 - Rotary New(er) Member Orientation 
    This orientation was a collaborative effort of the Rotary Clubs of Amigos Milwaukee After Hours, Mitchell Field, New Berlin, West Allis, and Whitnall Park.
    Three Amigos Rotarians participated in this orientation that was very well received.

    Tues, September 11 - Farewell to Gustavo de Arriba

    Sadly we said farewell to Gustavo de Arriba.  He only recently learned that he has been hired at a new company based in Denmark .We know we will see him again but will miss his leadership, his joy, and warm welcomes at our wonderful little club.

     

    Tuesday, August 28 - 6 - 8 pm - Service Night - Cathedral Center Dinner Service

    Our club's 4th time serving dinner to the women and families residing at Cathedral Center. We had a lot of fun and one of our Rotary members volunteered with his family and a friend.

       


     
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