This past month marked a milestone for me, my family and the KAMUT® wheat project: we attended our 30th Natural Product’s Expo in Anaheim. There were nearly 2,000 companies exhibiting there and the 4-day event attracted over 77,000 visitors. It was a far cry from the small niche the event featured 30 years ago.
Mom and Dad accompanied me to that first show. We set up a homemade booth and a large stone flourmill, hand crafted from Austria; it took up about half of the booth. We were there representing Montana Flour & Grains, which I had started along with a sister company, Montana Wheat Company, founded by my cousin, Steve Lancaster. We had started both companies at the same time in 1983. Steve and I were introducing stone-ground, whole wheat flour and promoting organic grain and flour for the first time.
Meanwhile, Dad was promoting something else on the side. He had brought a pint jar filled with an ancient grain that we called King Tut’s Wheat. The kernels were 3-times the size of modern wheat and he thought maybe someone might be interested in it.
After 3 days and talking to hundreds of people, Steve and I had our pockets full of numerous business cards and we both had visions of grandeur and great success dancing in our heads. On the other hand, Dad had only found one person during the entire show that showed interest in his little jar of ancient wheat. But for Dad, that was enough and we jumped into this new project together.
When we got home to our farm in Montana, we planted all the ancient seed we had—about 50 pounds—on a half-acre on the end of one of our fields and the KAMUT® grain project was born.
This year as we celebrated with a big cake and a host of friends and well-wishers, it was hard to believe how far we have come from such a small and simple beginning 30 years ago. At that first expo we did not display the KAMUT® grain trademark because we had not even thought of it or the possibility to register it as a trademark. I wore no cowboy hat with ancient wheat in the hatband and there was not a single product on the market with any type of ancient wheat in it. We had no idea about the ancient grain’s marvelous nutty flavor. We could never have predicted its potential health benefits, especially for those with chronic disease or non-ciliac wheat sensitivities.
Now, 30 years later, all of that has changed; we are preparing to plant 80 to 90,000 organic acres to support more than 2,000 different products, which can be found throughout the world. Health benefits are now understood and supported by 15 peer reviewed scientific articles.
All I can say is: thank you! Thanks to Mom and Dad, who first helped me get started. Thanks to my wife, Ann, who has supported me for the 45 years we have been married. And thank you to those many manufacturers who believe in the KAMUT® brand and what we are trying to do. Finally, thank you to the millions of customers all over the world who are eating KAMUT® brand products every day. Without your loyalty, we would have never made it to a 30th anniversary. I take my hat off to all of you with great thanks giving and appreciation.