It is unusual when two people start a company and 40 years later are still both active and both still trusted friends, but for Ron Seibold and Steve Malone, that’s exactly what happened.
In 1976, the two men began making a pitch to friends and potential investors about their ideas for sustainable development, protecting wildlife habitat, organic farming and a product that could improve the health of millions of people. They chose the name “Pines” because the Pine Tree is an international symbol of the peace in nature.
It was America’s bicentennial, and Steve and Ron also wanted to prove that free enterprise still worked for common people with limited resources. They attracted nearly 200 small investors with an average investment of $200 each. The largest investment from an individual was $2,000. All purchased their stock for $1 per share or were paid in stock for services based on that value.
With only $8,000 in cash from investments, the men started Pines International. Starting in early 1977 and continuing for eight months while staying at KOA campgrounds and cheap motels, the two men walked into more than 2,000 natural food stores in 35 states and established a market for Pines Wheat Grass. It was the first green superfood in what later became an important segment in the natural food marketplace. Most stores now offer a well-stocked section called “Green Superfoods.”
Their message was this: “Research shows that most people do not eat nearly enough dark green leafy vegetables to protect their health against degenerative diseases. With a natural concentration of green nutrients, Pines Wheat Grass allows you to conveniently and economically increase your servings of these foods in your daily diet for less than 25 cents per serving. Each serving is nutritionally equal to a serving of kale or spinach costing more than $1 per serving when purchased in a supermarket’s produce department.”
Forty years later, millions of people have acted on Steve and Ron’s message. Some have responded as a result of dozens of other companies, who saw Pine’s success, promoting their own green superfoods. Ron and Steve are delighted that they started a international movement toward using nutrient-dense green superfood powders and tablets, but the men also find it unfortunate when other companies copy their message but not their quality standards.
Even with all the companies copying Pines, the company has still managed to do well. As far as those original investors are concerned, the book value of each $1 share is now worth more than $110, and the company has paid dividends of more than $20 per share.
Through those 40 years, larger companies have frequently made offers to buy Pines International, but Ron and Steve have not wanted to risk the commitment to their original goals and to a closely-knit family of employees, some of whom have worked for Pines for nearly 30 years.
Pines International was among the first organic food companies and was a part of the first group of companies to have all its products certified organic by the USDA. The company now has dehydration facilities in Kansas and Iowa and grows wheat grass, barley grass, oat grass, rye grass and alfalfa on about 2,000 acres of organic farmland. Their main facility is next to some of their family farms near Lawrence, Kansas, where they do all their own milling, tableting, bottling and shipping. Pines is the only company selling wheatgrass that does everything from planting the seed to harvesting the product using all of its own equipment.
Their dream of an educational foundation to promote sustainable living and wildlife habitat became a reality four years after starting Pines.. The Wilderness Community Education Foundation (WCEF) has purchased and is protecting more than 1,500 acres of wildlife corridors. The WCEF has also contributed over a half million dollars to environment causes, including most of the funds in a permanent endowment for the Kansas water keeper program. Interest from that endowment will keep a Riverkeeper on the State’s largest river in perpetuity.
The company itself has contributed several million servings of its dark green cereal grasses to feeding programs in Africa, Central America and the United States.
In addition to organic certification, all Pines’ products are verified as GMO free by the Non-GMO Project. Besides its wheatgrass.com website, the company frequently posts on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Pinterest and Tumblr.
Pines products are available online and at quality natural food stores in all 50 states. The company also provides bulk ingredients to other manufacturers in the United States and more than 20 other countries.
As Ron and Steve have been saying for more than 40 years, “Eat More GREEN!”