The last 40 miles of the Towaoc-Highline Canal flowing out of McPhee Reservoir wends its way south and west, where it eventually delivers gravity-fed Dolores River water to 7,700 acres of tribal land currently under cultivation. The farm and ranch program began in 1991 and today cultivates 2000 acres of corn, 4,000 acres of alfalfa, and 1,700 acres of rotational crops, including triticale and alfalfa.
Driving through light drizzle, I peer through a scrim of haze and a stripe of brown to see Shiprock looming to the south, the Carrizo Mountains (Dzil Nahoozilii) straight ahead, and the Lukachukai Mountains (Lok’aa’ch’equi) off in the distance, all awash beneath a watercolor sky. A dead coyote lies gape-mouthed in the road that continues past the naked necks of rocky hills. Layered stacks of stone and blunted mesa tops bruise the horizon with their purple presence. In the distance a couple of cedar post corrals are anchored with crooked tires and flanked by a murder of crows. As if out of nowhere the groomed, park-like entrance to the Ute Mountain Farm and Ranch Headquarters appears, home to the Bow and Arrow Brand.
The farm’s newest venture, Bow and Arrow, was launched in 2014. Constructed by Weeminuche, the $4.8 million dollar mill north of the headquarters is the center of the Bow and Arrow enterprise. Today, using state-of-the-art sustainability practices, Ute Mountain Farm and Ranch mills their whole grain, non-GMO, gluten-free corn products into blue, yellow, white and Indian blend cornmeal, turning out 130,000 pounds of milled, cleaned corn each week.
Operations manager Simon Martinez has been working for Ute Mountain Farm and Ranch for more than 20 years. He worked on the McPhee Project in 1982 and, coincidentally, today finds himself at the literal end of the water delivery line he helped to create, as an employee of the farm that benefits from that water. He is enthusiastic and optimistic about the value-added products that Bow and Arrow offers and anticipates a receptive and expanding market.
Bow and Arrow is aiming for national distribution. Martinez states they hope to place their product in “thousands of stores nationwide with our 24-ounce bag and in larger bakeries with our 25-pound milled corn.” Working with national distributors, Bow and Arrow currently has its products in 14 states, including Whole Foods in the Rocky Mountain region. Bow and Arrow has also set its sights on the national Kroger chain. Products currently under development and awaiting marketing and distribution include polenta and grits. Martinez expects the grits will be popular in the South and the polenta will be a West Coast favorite. Online sales are another target audience for the company.
Bow and Arrow products can be found on local shelves and tasted in locally-made foods. IFA is its biggest local customer. FB Organics, the Cortez Farmers Market, the Mesa Verde Museum, Zuma’s in Mancos, and Southwest Farm Fresh Coop all carry the 24-ounce bags of their milled corn as well. The popular downtown ice creamery Moose and More not only sells the 24-ounce bags of Bow and Arrow corn, but owners Brent and Rachel McWhirter have crafted a signature recipe – Honey Blue Cornbread ice cream—made from Bow and Arrow blue cornmeal. (They invite you to stop in for a free sample.)
Distilleries in Durango, Buena Vista, and Carbondale use Bow and Arrow corn in making artisan bourbon and vodka. Numerous restaurants in the Denver metro area utilize Bow and Arrow cornmeal on their menus. Cracked corn, another popular commodity produced by Bow and Arrow, has a wide regional appeal. Moab, Blanding, Dove Creek, Grand Junction, Durango, Pagosa Springs, and Hotchkiss and Delta all are customers.
Most consumers understand that whole grain is healthier than grain that has been dehulled and degermed. Bow and Arrow products are made from whole grain which results in higher fiber and more nutrients than its denatured counterpart. To maximize freshness, seal the cornmeal in a container or plastic bag and store it in the refrigerator or freezer.