FARMINGTON, N.M. — The Navajo Pride flour mill, which was built to mill wheat grown by the Navajo Agricultural Products Industry in the high Southwest, will shut down its operations for a year, company officials told The Daily Times. The announcement comes less than a month after the NAPI issued a voluntary recall for its bleached, all-purpose flour because of possible Salmonella contamination.
Tsosie Lewis, chief executive officer of the NAPI, told The Daily Times that a new mill should be operational by this time next year. In the meantime, some of the mill’s 26 employees will be placed in other departments, and some will be sent to Kansas State University to receive additional training.
“We are paying for them to go,” he said. “We just don’t have a work force at times to recruit from, so we have to send them to school so they can learn and then bring them back. So they can take courses in milling for three or four months. When we start reconstruction, they will be transferred back to the mill.”
Mr. Lewis said the NAPI plans to sell off its old equipment and replace it with updated, computerized equipment. By adding more modern equipment, NAPI hopes to reduce the number of machines at the mill to around five from 15, while increasing production, he said.
“We would only need to bring in five machines that would provide higher output and volume,” he told The Daily Times. “The particular machines (in the mill currently) don’t have any smart technology or sensors that can tell us if (a particular machine) is heating up or is out of whack. The savings will come with having the most efficient milling equipment (in the new mill next year).”
Despite the mill shutdown, Mr. Lewis said the NAPI intends to still produce and sell flour, but he declined to say how.
“Right now, we’re raising 10,000 acres red hard wheat,” he said. “We’re going to continue. The mill’s going to shut down, but that doesn’t mean we won’t still sell flour.”
Navajo Pride offers several types of flour mixes: all-purpose flour, used in most baking and cooking recipes; whole wheat flour, 100% stone ground hard red winter wheat with protein content between 10% and 12%; and fry bread mix, a complete mix made from the mill’s all-purpose flour using NAPI’s own recipe.The NAPI is an agribusiness entity owned by the Navajo Nation. It farms table stock potatoes, alfalfa hay, wheat and other crops on approximately 78,000 of its 110,640 total acres of land near Farmington.