Name: Neal Andrus
Location: Rigby, ID
Occupation: Conventional Farmer
Supports GMO Farming: Negative
I met with Neal Andrus for lunch while visiting Eastern Idaho on our GMO Free Idaho “Locavore Tour.” Man, what a great guy! Everyone I met with on our tour was inspiring in one way or another.
What I loved about Neal is that although he is a conventional farmer, he is seeking out alternatives that are GMO free. Not only that, but these alternatives are part of a growing niche market and Neal knows consumers and his farm will benefit from growing these new crops.
What does Neal grow? He grows hundreds of acres of barley for the Budweiser plant in Idaho Falls. He does, after all, have to put food on his table. What Neal has done though is set aside some of his acreage to experiment with the growth of ancient grains. Yeah, grains that are not being grown anywhere else in Idaho! (That I am aware of, if you know someone who is growing any of these varieties, let us know!)
Three years ago Neal had a conversation with a friend who was expressing her concerns about the state of our food supply. He started doing research about the market he knows best (grains) and starting thinking about how he could contribute a positive product to his community. That’s when he stumbled upon information about ancient grains. He started converting small plots of land to grow 8 varieties of ancient grains to see how they did in the Eastern Idaho climate. Six were a success and one really took off.
The Lamas and Banatika he planted didn’t do so well, so he is not likely to try them again. The Einkorn, Sonora, Juan Triticale, Rouge, Bolero, and Purple Emmer did fairly well, so he plans to propagate more of these grains. The gain that did the best was Kamut or Khorasan, a grain from Egypt but is guessed to have originated in Greece.
Not only was it intriguing hearing about these grain varieties, but Neal is very educated about genetically modified crops and expressed his concerns. He explained that everything he grows on his farm has to makes sense financially. He doesn’t grow GMO crops because they don’t make sense for him financially nor does it make sense environmentally.
I asked Neal if growing Organic made financial sense. He said as of now it doesn’t, but he hasn’t thrown Organic off the table just yet. Neal said that in the future, growing Organic might be possible and lucrative. At this time, Neal sprays as little as he possible to reduce the amount of herbicide being used on his soil.
Neal also grows his own alfalfa, non-GMO of course. Neal knows many GMO alfalfa growers and mentioned why he feels that GMO alfalfa is unnecessary. He can plant 4 crops of alfalfa, without invasive weeds, before he has to till it under and rotate his crops. Herbicide resistant alfalfa is completely unnecessary he said because weeds are not a problem in alfalfa fields.
After his 4th season and last harvest of alfalfa he does spray his crop with Roundup to kill the alfalfa and will then till it under and plant something else the following year.
We have heard time and time again that Roundup Ready alfalfa is completely unnecessary. Here we have a conventional farmer who grows alfalfa and doesn’t need herbicide to maintain his crop. So why did Monsanto create GMO technology for such a crop?
Neal said that the GMO alfalfa seed is extremely expensive and guesses (and is right) that in the future many of his farmer friends will start to have problems with weeds in their crop. It is my own conclusion that Monsanto created GM alfalfa in order to make weeds a problem, so that their technology would then be needed.
Of course this won’t work anyway because of super weeds and the growing resistance to Roundup herbicide and I also speculate other reasons for creating GM alfalfa (For more information about the dangers of GMO alfalfa check out our interview with Phil Geertson, former conventional alfalfa seed exporter).
Neal is also a supporter of GMO labeling and wishes the best of luck to California, who is voting in November on a ballot initiative that would mandate the labeling of GM foods. Another thing I enjoyed about Neal is that is he a man of spirituality. For him, altering the genetics our of food supply is an immoral act and should not be tolerated.
GMO Free Idaho wishes the best for Neal. It was a pleasure to meet a farmer who understands his trade and understands that we cannot sustain our food supply through the propagation of GM crops.
Neal has Kamut for sell NOW, in addition to Spelt. You can get your hands on his grains by emailing Neal at firstname.lastname@example.org.
He also gave me a 50 pound bag of Kamut, so if you are interested in experimenting with his grain you can also email me at email@example.com. I’d be happy to meet up with you and give you a pound or two, under one condition you have to let me know how your baked goods turn out!
We are working with Neal to get his Kamut into several Treasure Valley locations and locations in Pocatello, Rexburg, and Idaho Falls. If you know someone that would like to source his grains, please email Neal or myself.
When I go back to Eastern Idaho this winter, I plan on visiting with Neal again. We will keep you updated on his progress!
Thanks for your time Neal, and your dedication to providing alternatives to your community and to consumers across the State of Idaho!
Here’s to being GMO free!