JARALES — In 1914, the Valencia Flour Mill was found by Jose D. Cordova in Jarales.
Local farmers provided the wheat, which Cordova processed into flour. After it was processed, 50 percent of the final product was given to the farmer.
However, the farmer was often allowed to pull from the flour mill as their family needed. The flour was sold at the mill and in retail stores. At the time, 13,000 flour mills operated in the United States and were a crucial part of both the local and national economy.
More than a century later, only 200 mills remain, and barter systems are almost nonexistent in the United States. But the Valencia Flour Mill stays strong in the hands of Cordova’s grandson, also named Jose, and his wife, Kathy. Through the changing times, the Cordovas have adapted well.
Jose was raised in Jarales, but his career took him out of the state. He worked as a process engineer with 3M Company in Minnesota for 21 years, where he met Kathy. She worked as a freelance science journalist in Minneapolis.
Though raised in Iowa, Kathy’s sister lives in Rio Rancho. When 3M wanted to transfer him to Austin, Texas, the Cordovas decided they would rather live closer to family in New Mexico.
The mill had been shut down since Jose’s father, Arturo, died, so improvements were needed.
“We rebuilt everything,” explained Jose. “The walls, the insulation and all the utilities — we rebuilt all of it around 1988.”
The Cordovas still use some of the same equipment, such as a 1917 flour packer. Kathy said much of the redesigning was to make the building itself more safe.
That being said, the couple has also had to adapt with the times in regards to dietary needs and health concerns. Low-carb diet fads and increased knowledge of celiac disease have led to more government regulations.
When the mill opened 104 years ago, the industry wasn’t as regulated. As with everything else in the industry, though, the Cordovas have changed with the times.
“Regulations are a challenge,” said Kathy. “There are things 40 or 50 years ago that you didn’t have to worry about. We do very comprehensive labeling, and that helps us a lot.”
Jose and Kathy Cordova run the mill full-time and employ two part-time workers. Jose runs the mill, while Kathy’s background in public relations and science journalism helps with the sales and marketing aspect of the business.
Their main form of marketing is attending trade shows put on by distributors. There, the Cordovas showcase their products, including both wheat-based and blue corn-based flours. They said their flours are best used for Hispanic and Native American cuisines.
The Valencia Flour Mill has built a positive reputation across the state. From Los Lunas to Roswell, their customers rave. Their flour can be found in restaurants and is even sold in some retail stores. However, one can also purchase at the mill itself, where they may even give a little tour on the mill’s history.
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