From Grain To Glass is a series on Spirit of York that showcases some of the local partners we work with that provide the ingredients needed to help make our spirits. Their story is an extension of ours and we’re proud to share them #ThisIsOurSpirit
Harvest time is quite possibly the most rewarding part of the job for any farmer -- that’s certainly the case for Ron Brubacher who continues to work on the family farm that has been in the family for over 60 years. Harvest is one of the few times of the year where he gets to appreciate the fruits of his labour after a hard working season on fields of Fergus, ON.
And the stakes are high, much higher for smaller farms like the one that Ron runs. Growing organic, while better for all of us, is much harder to do successfully because of the lack of chemicals or pesticides used to protect the crop over the season. In order for it to work, organic farmers need to put a little extra love and care into what they do to ensure it all comes out right. So come every harvest, organic farmers like Ron have a lot more reason to celebrate. This is his story:
Returning To Field
Ron’s story begins with his father, who got the family farm in 1956. He spent his entire childhood there, but once he got older, took over and carried on the farming tradition with his own family. While farming has always been a big part of his life and family history, in his early adulthood Ron shifted gears and decided to follow another passion of his -- farm manufacturing. But in order to do that and keep things moving along at home, Ron hired his employee and right hand man Matt, who took on managing the family farm full-time.
Ron stayed in the manufacturing business for 20 years before returning back to his farming roots, but this time he tag-teaming it with Matt. The two now oversee the farm together, growing cash crops and operating a growing soybean business on the side where they develop soybean oil with a machine Ron personally developed. It works 24/7 to create this oil which they use to sell on the side, which has proven to be a great way to supplement the farming business.
Among all that, Ron also grows the red fife wheat that eventually ends up being used for our Red Fife Vodka. Prior to growing it on his farm, Ron noted that they previously grew white wheat which can sometimes be a tricky thing to grow since they’re prone to sprouting. What’s so bad about that? Once it happens, the wheat isn’t usable anymore and all those farming efforts go down the drain. And when you’re a local organic farmer, those are risks you don’t want to make.
So when red fife wheat became available, Ron made the switch. The heritage grain is much more resistant to sprouting, and luckily for Ron, has better yield potential than the usual white wheat he used to grow. And the best part? He says he’s seeing good demand for it too.
Coming Full Circle
Farmers like Ron typically harvest their crops and ship them to a local distributor or mill, who oftentimes acts as a middleman, shipping out their crop or milled wheat to customers or local businesses to use. In the case of his red fife wheat crops, Ron sends it all to Melissa McKeown of 1847 Stone Milling who later mills it all up and ships it out to vendors like Spirit Of York. Ron notes that while it’s quite common for wheat to be used at bakeries or livestock feed, he wasn’t aware of how much of it was being used to make spirits -- something that came to him as a pleasant surprise when he found out. He’s since tried Spirit Of York Vodka and Red Fife Vodka and said he was quite impressed with the overall product.
“I liked it, and everybody got excited drinking it knowing that it came from our farm,” said Ron who noted it gave him a great sense of pride to know his wheat was being used for something like this. And the fact that the product is a fully Canadian makes it even better.
“When people make the effort and are willing to pay a bit extra knowing where it came from, knowing it’s a good, safe product -- [the farmers] really appreciate that. ”
And frankly, nothing tastes better than something that’s made on home soil. We understand the hard work it takes to harvest these ingredients, so the least we could do is make a product that’ll do them justice. That’s how we show our spirit.