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In 1960, when Frank Ford was struggling to develop a market for his wheat, he would take time out from the fields to peddle his stone-ground whole flour to grocery stores near his Deaf Smith County farm. Using a ten-year-old pickup truck to deliver it and a 30-inch stone grinder to mill it, Ford sold his flour, usually on consignment, to stores from Hereford south to Lubbock, charging $2.55 for a case of 12 two-pound bags. “I lost money for five years,” Ford says. “White flour was selling for 27 cents for a two-pound bag and people in those days were not willing to pay much of a premium for organically grown whole wheat flour. In fact, most people didn’t even know what that was.” Now, of course, his firm is one of the biggest in the business. But when Cooper’s Thriftway grocery store in nearby Canyon runs out of Arrowhead Mills peanut butter, Ford is likely to deliver the new stock himself. “I also empty waste baskets,” he says with a smile. “It isn’t a job the chairman of the board usually has, I guess.” But Arrowhead Mills isn’t run like a big business, although it grossed $10 million in sales last year and markets some 300 products. The spirit of operating on a shoestring that marked the firm’s early days lives on. “We still have every piece of equipment that we started with, including the $350 truck we bought in 1960 from Furr Foods that had run a half million miles already,” Ford says. “It always got there and it always broke down on the way back.” During those days, he farmed in the summer and built houses in the winter to keep the company and his family going. He quit farming in 1976 to give his full attention to running the mill, but some 20 percent of the Arrowhead Mills wheat crop comes from his land, which now amounts to 14,000 acres. A tall, lean man who runs as much as nine miles a day, Frank Ford is a blend of farmer, social-action worker, humanist who hawks nutrition, religion, and physical fitness with equal evangelical fervor. A conservative, he has chaired the county Republican Party and headed a ministry to migrant farmworkers at the same time. His political activity declined and his belief in the power of man was moderated with his religious conversion in 1973, but he still chairs the local community action agency and is active in the American Agriculture Movement. “I’m not as politically active as I was,” says Ford, who ran a losing battle for the State Legislature against Billy Clayton in 1968. “I’m not turned off on politics ’cause I’m not turned off on people.” But he no longer believes that man alone can, with enough effort, solve the problems of the world. “I have found that the love of God expressed through his son Jesus Christ operating through me in social concerns is more effective than my previous efforts which were in my own strength,” Ford explains. The fortunes of Arrowhead Mills picked up with the interest in natural foods that began in the 1960s. Before that “interest” turned into the boom of the early ’70sthe boom that finally put it on a firm financial footingthe company operated on loans and reinvestments by employees, who are stockholders now. \(About half the stock is owned by employees, who also make up half the membership of the board of directors. The first two Arrowhead Mills employees, Ken Duncan and Silverio During the ’60s, the firm grossed $300,000 to $400,000 a year. Since 1970 Arrowhead Mills has picked up an extra $1 million or so each year, and Ford expects this year to bring about $11 million in sales, with next year looking even stronger. “We’ve got our foundation laid,” he says. Arrowhead Mills began small, of course, with only a few products: whole wheat flour, corn meal, cracked wheat cereal, and whole grain wheat and corn. It expanded for the first time in 1965, adding pinto beans; then came soy beans in 1967 and an entire line of beans, seeds, grains, and oils in 1969 and, just recently, whole grain mixesa pancake mix and a carob cake mix, for exampleand now a line of vitamins with the Arrowhead Mills label. At first the company shipped out individual orders from Hereford to a growing network of natural food stores. “We didn’t even know what a trunk line was,” Ford says. But motor freight costs quickly forced them to learn. He took to the road to establish distribution lines for the mill’s products. With $220 in airline tickets for each route, he worked an eastern and a western tour. Despite his buttoned-down life, Ford says he felt a kinship with the young people who shared this mission with him. “I was very searching and alienated down deep, although I was structured on the outside. I got along well with these kids.” He continues, “Young people with a dream would pick me up at every airport and I’d sleep on the floor and we’d talk about what it takes to get going in a warehouse and the most effective ways of trucking. Usually, I wouldn’t spend over $10 at any stop.” His western route included Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Van couver, Denver; east was Kansas City, Chicago, New York, Boston, Florida, Atlanta, and Dallas. “I’d be gone about ten days, living out of a suitcase and people would pick me up and we’d plot the revolution,” he recalls with a half-smile. “Young people with a dreamand most of them have made it and maintained their integrity in the process.” The careful groundwork has paid off. Arrowhead Mills now has about 50 distributors in all 50 states and Canada and exports its products to Japan and Sweden. The company has four field representatives to work with distributors and natural food stores, one each for California and for the Northeastern, South Central, and Midwestern states, and Ford estimates that most of the nation’s 6,000 natural foods stores carry Arrowhead Mills products. A new label, Deaf Smith Farms, will go into supermarkets this fall. Arrowhead Mills is both a processor and a distributor. Most of the flours, flakes, and granolas are made in the Hereford plant, but some flours are milled for it elsewhere. Commercial stone grinders have replaced the lone grinder once used, and the flakes are manufactured with dry radiant heat, a process that doesn’t use steam. It’s the only processor of its kind in use for human food, Ford says, although similar flakers have been used to produc4 feedlot grain. Steam, he says, destroys some of the nutrients. Oilssafflower, corn, sesame, soy, peanut, sunflower seed, oliveare trucked in by stainless steel tankers from wherever they’re pressed, then bottled in Hereford. Then there’s the Arrowhead Mills peanut butter, one of its most popular products. It’s made in Portales, New Mexico, some 80 miles to the west in the heart of a peanut-growing region famous for its Valencia variety. There’s one product his company sells that Ford doesn’t like, thoughhis face showing his displeasure as he pokes a boot toe at a sack in the warehouse. It is unbleached white flour, long a target of natural food buffs’ disdain because, they say, most of the vitamins and minerals are milled out along with the fiber. “But if you make our wheat bran and Bear Mush cereal, you have white flour left,” Ford explains. “We enrich it with soy flour and it is from organically grown wheat.” In addition to the products it makes, Arrowhead Mills labels about 30 products not made in its plants, for which, Ford says, the company gets a markup somewhat smaller than the usual distribut9r’s markup of about 25 percent. But this sort of success at marketing and distribution doesn’t seem to please everyone in the industry. Some small cooperatives have charged repeatedly that the larger manufacturers “operate to 4 AUGUST 10, 1979