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One family finds niche for gluten-free products

SHAUN STANLEY/Durango Herald

Melinda Wood pauses in the window of her Wood’s Ranches Gluten Free Bakery cart open in the 200 block of College Avenue.

By Heather Scofield Herald staff writer

Melinda Wood wanted to give her four children a taste of the business world.

So she joined the LOCAL Brands FARM Co-op and enlisted help in caring for the family’s pigs and sheep from Naomi, 13; Dakota, 10; Ashland, 8; and Colt, 4.

The process of bringing the meat from their enterprise, “Wood’s Ranch,” to market through the co-op brought many valuable lessons for the children. It showed them how to make a ranching lifestyle more affordable and financially viable, and it funded the children’s extracurricular activities, Wood said.

“There were definitely times the checks came in at the exact right time,” Wood said.

But life has a way of bringing surprises, and time for running the family’s meat-production operation declined as childhood food allergies emerged. The allergies led to hours in the kitchen learning how to cook meals without grains, gluten and dairy ingredients.

But the children weren’t ready to give up working and learning about business together. And their work soon evolved into a baking operation that now has roots in downtown Durango.

The Wood’s Ranch Gluten Free Bakery truck on College Drive opened early this month, serving some of the children’s favorite new recipes.

Help from the co-op in getting the business started and word about their products has made all the difference, Wood said.

“The co-op was a great incubator for us to see if the idea was feasible, and it gave us the courage to develop it into something bigger,” she said.

While she’s proud of her children and the business the family is building, Wood said it’s the customers supporting the co-op and the businesses growing from it who are making the biggest difference.

They’re choosing to buy local in a game where everyone wins, she said.

“When they buy from a local co-op, people know the food came from their neighbors,” Wood said. “They have some idea of how the local operations are run and the pride that went into that work.”

hscofield@durangoherald.com

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