Potato vodka bringing big attention to family farm

October 24, 2017 05:00 PM

MIDDLEBURGH - JetBlue Airlines spread its wings a little wider recently, taking on a local company in a unique apprenticeship program that could provide a big boost to their business.

The company they chose has roots that go back nearly 200 years, but what caught JetBlue's attention is how that company recently evolved and broke into a whole new market - using a potato.

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Barber's Farm in Middleburgh has been around since 1857. Six generations have worked the land there, which can present some challenges.

"When you have multiple generations in the business at the same time, you really need to evolve to continue to make that a viable operation," explained Jim Barber.

The evolution of Barber's Farm started about five years ago, when Jim's son, Elias, returned home from college.

"I just knew I wanted to be part of the farm and trying to find a place for myself was difficult with current operations. It was all under control," explained Elias.

The family had talked for years about what to do with the tons of excess potatoes they have. A relative suggested they use them to make vodka – and Elias found his place.

Today, 1857 Spirits is in its third year of production. They've built a distillery at the farm and after some initial experimentation are churning out a top-shelf product with around 350 bottles a week and barely enough to meet demand.

"The potato possesses so many wonderful oils that grains don't and it's those oils that really make up the flavor profile and that mouthfeel," pointed out Elias.

Celebrity Chef Mario Batali recently ordered 25 cases of 1857 Vodka and JetBlue selected them as this year's "BlueBud" - a pioneering up and comer who will join a special business mentoring program geared towards getting their products onboard.

"It's no guarantee at the moment, but it's incredible to have such a company as JetBlue really behind you," acknowledged Elias.

With business taking off, it's not surprising that Elias spends entire days and nights in the distillery. The same goes for his one employee -  assistant Emily Driscoll.

"We sort of do it all in here, but my father unofficially is our third man I suppose. He's not getting a paycheck," admitted Elias.

That's okay with dad. He's just happy his son found his place in the family business.

"I'm very happy that this all came together at the time that it came together and that he's so good at making vodka," exclaimed Jim.

They do sell the potato vodka in some liquor stores throughout the region, so be sure to keep an eye out for it.

More information:

1857 Spirits Potato Vodka


WNYT Staff

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