Students and veterans visited 8 Oaks Distillery in New Tripoli PA, a veteran run distillery. Chad Butters, owner and Army veteran, tells his family’s story with pride through Eight Oaks Distillery. From the origin of the name to most of the employees, family and friends is what makes this distillery run.
Yet, the hands-on approach doesn’t stop there, at Eight Oaks they don’t just distill spirits; they plant the seeds, tend the crops, harvest, clean, mill and then, distill their spirits. They are a “Grain to Glass” operation, an almost unheard-of operation in the liquor business. Chad is also a non-GMO farmer and hoping to transition to organic, to be able to leave the land better for his kids. Touring the fields, Chad informed them about the different varieties of grain Eight Oaks grows and why. Yet he was very forthright in stating that farming is not his forte. He excels in the marketing, distilling and growth aspect of the business.
Chad discussed the marketing practices Eight Oaks has implemented. He focuses on farmers markets and regional events, which enables Eight Oaks to talk directly with their customers on the process, quality and history of their product. This ensures their message is conveyed in a accurate, consistent manner and they get direct feedback from their consumers.
Doing business locally is an important component of their business model. As a regional distiller and contributor to the community, he and local farmers work together by purchasing each others products, sharing customers and old-fashioned bartering.
While Chad’s strength lies in the distilling side of his operation, he receives support from Kevin Utt, a local grain grower that gives advice on a regular basis, discussing crop rotation and growing strategies. Chad also gives the leftover mash from the distilling process to local livestock farmers as it full of nutrients and has a sweet taste from the sugars.
Creating a cohesive farming community is a goal of Eight Oaks Distillery and they are using this experience as a way to show others how doing business locally, both as consumers and as farmers can strengthen their economy.
From the corn fields, to the mill room and lastly the distillery, Chad showed the group the entire process for making each spirit. All along the way emphasizing the necessity of passion for what you do and fostering a community while doing it. The students and veterans learned about how to make spirits from "grain to glass" and more importantly that you can't do it alone.
Chad’s final wisdom for the students venturing into any type of business, is passion and community.
Passion to Start, and Community to Sustain.
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