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Farmer-Branded Bourbon In The Works
Russell Hedrick has partnered with a local distillery to turn his organic corn into whiskey. Now the North Carolina farmer has a plan to link other farms to create a national brand of spirits.
“We are exploring the use of either Farmers Distillery or Farmers Reserved Distillery as the name,” says Hedrick. “Our vision is to build a company that will positively affect the bottom line of farmers who work with us.”
Hedrick and a group of about 10 other farmers heading up the project all use no-till, cover crops and a diverse crop rotation in their farming operations. They will be looking for others who follow these practices.
Hedrick works with Foothills Distillery that produces Seventeen Twelve Bourbon using his corn and other locally produced grains. It is now being marketed in more than 36 states.
The distillery will soon be introducing Bloody Butcher Bourbon, made with Bloody Butcher heritage open-pollinated corn that’s also raised by Hedrick.
“It has been aged for 6 years and is expected to be priced at around $120 for a bottle,” says Hedrick.
Other farmers could seek out similar arrangements or even attempt to produce their own spirits for sale. However, the regulatory hoops and marketing challenges are extensive.
“It took a lot of hard work, travel time and phone calls to set up distribution,” says Hedrick. “We want to leverage that experience on a larger basis. The concept is to collaborate with other farmers instead of redoing the process 20 or 30 times.”
Hedrick and his farmer partners plan to locate 2 or more regional distilleries in the Midwest in addition to working with Foothills Distillery.
Loren Steinlage, West Union, Iowa, is one of the farmers involved with Hedrick.
“We are looking at several possibilities for a distillery in northeast Iowa, including the former dairy barn on our farm,” says Steinlage.
The goal is to produce a national brand using grain from participating farmers for batches of spirits labeled with the farm they came from.
“We will have the name of the farm and the state where the grain was grown and a code on the bottle’s label,” says Hedrick. “If you buy a bottle, you will be able to use the code on our website to learn about the farm and the people who operate it.”
A second option will be for the partners to work with state alcohol boards for distribution of spirits in the state where the grain originated.
“A third avenue will be for the farmer who originated the grain to apply for a state license to sell the product at their farm or local area or at field days on the farm,” says Hedrick. “The thing that I have enjoyed about craft spirits is that there is a lot of alcohol out there, but special whiskeys and bourbons made with heirloom grains will make our product different from any other.”
Hedrick hopes to have the business up and running by the end of the year.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Russell Hedrick, 4155-Section House Rd., Hickory, N.C. 28601 (ph 803 530-4315; jrhgrainfarmsllc@gmail.com).

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2021 - Volume #45, Issue #5