A food-processing expert is the newest addition to an advisory board representing Oklahoma State University’s Robert M. Kerr Food & Agricultural Products Center.
Joe Ford, senior vice president of operations for Shawnee Milling Co. in Shawnee, joins the 16-member Industry Advisory Committee to help oversee the center’s mission and vision.
I am very excited for how I can help FAPC,” Ford said. “Shawnee Milling Co. has worked with the center for the past several years, and being involved with FAPC has helped us have a fresh perspective in the food industry.”
Ford was appointed to the committee by Thomas G. Coon, vice president, dean and director of OSU’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, of which FAPC is a part.
“FAPC is integral to our land-grant mission of developing and disseminating research-based knowledge that helps strengthen local communities and improve the quality of life for the people of Oklahoma and beyond,” Coon said. “Mr. Ford’s expertise, experience and insightful knowledge will enable us to better serve food-manufacturing entrepreneurs and businesses.”
To learn more about FAPC, Ford visited the center and met with Coon, FAPC Director Roy Escoubas, and center faculty and staff. The August visit also included a tour of the FAPC facility.
“Shawnee Milling Co. is relying on the center, especially with continuously improving our food safety programs,” Ford said. “I can see us using FAPC more by utilizing the facilities’ equipment for future projects in product development.”
In 1906, J. Lloyd Ford started Shawnee Milling Co. with his family and set standards of excellence that are upheld today by the third and fourth generation of the Ford family, who run the mill.
Despite significant growth over the years, the company has never lost track of its roots. The core values of Shawnee Milling Co. focus on a tradition of family values; an insistence on quality products; a record of dependable, personal service; an offering of consistent value; and a family of friendly, knowledgeable and dedicated employees.
These values have guided the company’s evolution into a large and sophisticated milling and mixing operation, determined to meet the demanding requirements of an equally sophisticated customer base.
“The foundation of the quality of our products is rooted in the grain we buy and the connection we have with farmers around the state,” Ford said. “This relationship allows us to directly source wheat from farmers; that separates us from many in the industry.”
The Food Division of Shawnee Milling Co. creates a variety of flour, cornmeal and baking mix products to meet the baking needs of its customers. The products serve a variety of markets including retail and foodservice.
As senior vice president of operations, Ford is responsible for all operational activities of the company, including day-to-day management and decisions for manufacturing, accounting, selling and marketing of products made under the Shawnee Milling brand and made to the specifications of Shawnee Milling’s customers.
Although Ford has been a full-time employee with Shawnee Milling Co. since 2005, he has been with the company much longer.
“I started sweeping the floors and sampling grain trucks when I was in high school,” he said. “My dad put me in all the departments to learn the business.”
During Ford’s visit to FAPC, a topic of discussion with faculty and staff was current issues and trends in the food industry.
More people are eating meals away from the home, which has shifted flour sales, Ford said. Currently, Shawnee Milling Co. sells 70 percent of its flour to foodservice and 30 percent to retail.
Another trend Ford discussed was the increase in popularity of whole-grain products. Shawnee Milling Co. is introducing more whole-grain products to meet this demand.
Just like other companies in the food industry, Shawnee Milling Co. is challenged with workforce development.
“Unemployment in our area is very low,” Ford said. “We have to recruit to find suitable employees. We are telling our story at the high school level to recruit kids and let them know there are great careers available in the food industry.”
One of the areas that Shawnee Milling plans to expand on is product development.
“Our goal in developing new products is to speed up our responsiveness to the market and our current customers” Ford said. “Product development allows us to work with regional restaurant chains and offer them products tailored to their needs.”
Ford will join the other advisory board members during their next biannual meeting in November.
“We enjoyed hosting Mr. Ford at FAPC and look forward to having him on the committee,” Escoubas said. “Shawnee Milling has been a proud supporter of the center, and Mr. Ford’s extensive knowledge in the food-processing sector will make him an asset to our Industry Advisory Committee.”