Our distillery dreams are starting to come true.
When we started Last Straw, we started it to make whisky. The original dream was an on-farm distillery, where our inputs would come from the land where the distillery sits. If the intervening 8 years have taught us anything, it's that farming and distilling are both high-input-cost, low-return businesses. So we've kept our eggs in the distilling basket, and have left the growing of grain to the experts.
So, if we aren't farming it ourselves (with all the control & traceability that comes along with that), then what's the next best thing? We figure it's in working directly with small family farms, and supporting regenerative agriculture on farms near us.
We're doing this through our Single Farm Whisky Program.
Our aim is to make whiskies that tell the story of the land, the season, and the people who grow the grain. In doing so, our intention is to promote the spread of regenerative and organic farming practices, have 100% traceability on our inputs, support the proliferation of rare and heritage grains, provide a stable market for farmers that's not subject to the whims of commodity pricing, and amplify the virtuous cycle that's created when money circulates between small businesses in the community.
Our criteria for the program are broad:
Small Ontario family farms (the closer to our distillery, the better)
No genetically modified grains
Regenerative or organic farming practices (for the grain grown for us)
Obviously there's a lot to unpack from each of those bullet points - and we're working on a new section of our website which will go into more detail on each. In short, we want the program to be as accessible for farmers making the first steps towards regenerative agriculture as it is for those who've mastered the craft.
Why are we doing this? Well, to (very badly) paraphrase J.I. Rodale - healthy soil = healthy grains = better whisky. Quality ingredients make the difference between a good chef and a great one. Any baker will tell you that the same is true with grain. We want to make the best whisky we possibly can, and healthy soil is the best way to achieve that.
In the coming weeks, we'll be introducing you to the first couple of farms we're working with for the Fall 2020 through Spring 2022 harvests. If you are, or know a grain farmer practicing regenerative or organic agriculture, we'd love to hear from you. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to start the conversation. <3 - the Last Straw family