Episode 8

Published on:

25th May 2021

Organic Lentils and Building Timeless Seeds with Dave Oien

Dave Oien is the Founding Farmer and President of Timeless Seeds. In this episode he reflects on decades of organic pulse crop production, breeding, handling, and marketing. He helped to pioneer the US market for growing pulses as an organic cash crop, then began selling seed to other farmers, and ultimately has grown a business of selling lentils, chickpeas, and other crops to consumers around the world. Dave’s story was even captured in a book called “Lentil Underground”. 

“These lentils are absolutely nutritious food, great for our livestock, good for our rotations, good for our farming practices, and as luck would have it, the organic industry was really kind of starting to get some legs. So the markets were expanding and we discovered that in fact, there was a need in the food market for certified organic lentils and peas.” - Dave Oien

Dave shares what it took to figure out how to grow some of these crops organically, how he has built and evolved his business over the years, and why he prefers the term resiliency over sustainability. Dave doesn’t recommend the cold-turkey approach to transitioning to organic that he took. He shares that it came with some lessons from the school of hard knocks. He quickly learned that in order to make an organic system work it was going to have to start with healthier soil and he would need to find sources of organic nitrogen. 

“The more I read, the more I learned, the more I practiced, the more it seemed like, wow, we need to change the way we do things both to meet the growing market, but also just to pay greater attention to the health of the soil.” - Dave Oien

His organic lentils were discovered by “a relatively small chain store” at the time called Trader Joe’s. That connection at a trade show led to a long term relationship that expanded Dave’s market especially as Trader Joe’s also expanded their reach. Dave now also sells his products in other natural food stores, to the restaurant industry, to stores that cater to bulk orders and ships them internationally. 

“The organic food market is a worldwide phenomenon with a worldwide demand. You gotta learn how to grow it, to meet the organic specifications and to be successful doing it, but the processing and marketing infrastructure is increasingly available.”   - Dave Oien

This Week on Growing Pulse Crops:

  • Meet Dave Oien is the Founding Farmer and President of Timeless Seeds reflects on decades of organic pulse crop production, breeding, handling, and marketing. 
  • Discover how and why Dave was introduced to pulse crops and how his business has developed over the years

Growing Pulse Crops Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.

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About the Podcast

Growing Pulse Crops
The science and business of farming field peas, chickpeas, and lentils
This show features the latest in research, agronomy, and economics of pulse crops (peas, chickpeas, lentils, etc.).

Demand for these nutrient-dense, high-protein foods continues to grow. There is also interest from farmers to include more pulses into diverse rotations for benefits like nitrogen fixation and soil health.

But the industry continues to face challenges, and we are eager to address these head on. So if you’re a pulse grower or in any way interested in these important crops, hit subscribe and stay tuned for future episodes. We’ll be back with plenty of information about challenges pulse farmers are facing throughout the U.S. and what solutions are working.

Brought to you by the Pulse Crops Working Group with support from the North Central IPM Center and USDA NIFA.

About your host

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Tim Hammerich

I share stories about agriculture, agtech, and agribusiness on podcasts and radio.