In 1987, growing lentils in Montana was a radical suggestion. 

Smokey Timeless lentils

It’s hard to imagine now, but at the time David Oien was launching the first iteration of Timeless, organic farming wasn’t chic at all. 

Oien comes from a long line of Montana wheat farmers. He was in agricultural school when he realized that the changing model of farming wouldn’t work for him. The shift towards industrial farming demanded huge plots of land, and the relatively small family farm didn’t have a clear path forward. 

As a student, Oien became interested in organic farming and regenerative crops. He found like-minded partners in Bud Barta, Jim Barngrover, and Tom Hastings, and together they formed a mission to encourage sustainable organic farming in Montana. 

At first, their efforts focused on promoting growing a specific strain of lentil known as George Black Medic in the northern plains. The suggestion seemed simple, instead of leaving land to “fallow” or remain unplanted for alternate seasons, farmers would rotate in the crop of George Black Medic. This crop was chosen specifically because lentils make their own fertilizer. When planted, they reintroduce nitrogen into the soil, and make the land more fertile for other crops. Oien, Barta, Barngrover, and Hastings hoped that introducing this method of rotational farming would replenish soils, reduce erosion, and increase organic matter. Unfortunately, they were met with a lot of nos. At the time, the farmers they were speaking with were dependent on federal farm subsidies, which fine farmers for growing crops on fallow grounds. 

timeless lentil store house
A Timeless store house

Despite the initial setback, the Timeless team knew that their idea would be good for the land and for consumers. They were just a few years ahead of the game. In the 1990s, a renewed interest in health food among consumers provided the boost they needed. Working from David Oien’s farm, and with the help of friends and family, they launched their trademark Black Beluga Lentils in 1994. 

Today, Timeless has expanded. They remain committed to sustainable crops, but now work with a network of farmers and distributors who share their values. Their seeds and legumes can be found in restaurants across the country, as well as in Blue Apron Meal Kits.

Try a recipe for smokey beluga lentils.