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|Articles - March 2014|
|Tuesday, February 25, 2014|
BY JESSICA RIDGWAY
A self-proclaimed “chile head,” John Ford “grows, eats and does everything spicy.” An alcohol and drug outreach worker by day, Ford, 35, has been growing exotic hot peppers in his free time since 2008. Capitalizing on burgeoning demand for unique hot peppers — like the Syrian Aleppo, a burgundy pepper, commonly ground down to flakes, or the Brazilian ghost pepper, a bright-red pepper with twists of orange and green — Ford decided to turn his hobby into a full-blown business. In January 2013, he launched Ford’s Fiery Foods and Plants, a “pick-and-ship” business of the 50 hottest peppers in the world. From his home in Eugene, Ford distributes peppers grown in his backyard or on his sister’s property in White City, as well as seeds, pepper plants, powder and flakes. So far Ford has supplied more than 1,000 customers from around the country , including hot sauce manufacturers, food bloggers, taco shop owners and nurseries. A one-man operation, Fiery Foods got its start with $3,000 out-of-pocket funding; Ford now markets his products through social media, word of mouth and YouTube reviews. What’s next? Hoping to target chefs, restaurants and specialty food markets, Ford is introducing a new line of mild peppers this year known for their use in Turkish cuisine. He also wants to open a “spicy sandwich shop” and a storefront where he’ll sell, naturally, “all things spicy.”
“As a child I used to curse a lot, and my mom, as part of my punishment, would put a teaspoon of Tapatio [hot] sauce in my mouth. Needless to say, I never stopped cussing and I fell in love with spicy foods.”
“There’s a YouTube challenge called ‘Pepper Bombing,’ and what we do is walk somewhere downtown and confront a group of people and dare them to eat our hot peppers. Look up ‘Pepper Bombing, Eugene, Oregon’: You’ll see. It’s pretty funny.”
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