TOWAOC – The Ute Mountain Ute Farm and Ranch Enterprises is getting into the cornmeal business with a new large-scale mill that will supply grocery stores and restaurants.
“We’ve been farming for over 20 years. Farming’s been good to us, but we’re always looking for new business ventures,” said Paul Evans, general manager of the farm and ranch enterprise.
At the new mill, different kinds of corn will be processed and packaged on-site. The mill already has agreed to supply a few grocery stores, such as Nature’s Oasis in Durango. The farm plans to supply grocery stores nationally and internationally.
Mike Abeyta, a marketing consultant with the farm, hopes to fill an increasing demand for Mexican food and corn-based products nationally.
“People all over want that Southwest flavor,” Abeyta said.
The mill will produce cornmeal using four types of corn, yellow, Indian, white and blue. In the future, the mill plans to produce flavored cornbread mixes that could be prepared by microwave. For example, cornbread mixes can be sweet or spicy. However, the company has not yet decided on flavors.
Construction on the mill began last month adjacent to a current structure, in which whole white corn is cleaned and bagged for tortilla and corn-chip producers. The farm supplies the The Chip Peddler in Durango and producers in Arizona and California.
The mill will be 60 feet by 100 feet and will employ four people per eight-hour shift. The number of shifts will depend on demand, Evans said.
The first packages of whole-grain cornmeal are scheduled to hit local shelves in the next two weeks. However, the whole-grain cornmeal is not yet being produced in the new mill.
The enriched and degerminated cornmeal should be distributed to stores in September. Enriched and degerminated cornmeal has a longer shelf-life than whole-grain meal and slightly less fat.
If the expansion is successful, the company may contract to mill corn from other local growers and may go on to clean and package other products, Evans said.
The Ute Mountain Ute farm grows 3,000 acres of corn, making it the largest producer of its kind in the county. The corn used for cornmeal will be grown with seeds that have not been genetically modified. The farm also plants 4,000 acres of alfalfa.
The farm is on the southwest side of the Ute Mountain Ute Reservation. It is an enterprise fully owned by the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe.