If you recall from Monday's blog on Whiskey Acres, among the most frustrating, headache-inducing situations in launching their value-added ag venture was their dealings at the county level. In fact, Jamie – who was a lawyer before returning to the farm 17 years ago – described the local legal and zoning challenges as "enormous."
Their farm and the location of the distillery is zoned A-1 agriculture in DeKalb County, Illinois, but their local zoning administrator decided a distillery would be manufacturing and therefore, not allowed. Ultimately, they had to get legislation passed to recognize value-added ag processing as part of agriculture.
Then, that same official also insisted that to sell retail from the farm, the Walters were required to bring to code every building associated with the distillery, including a $160,000 municipal well for a sprinkler system. Their compromise: using a historic farm building that meets the definition of a roadside stand, "if you squint a little bit," Jamie says.
The other kicker was that the same individual told them they couldn't sell promotional items like t-shirts and caps to visitors. That would make them a retail seller of a product they're not producing – unless they start growing cotton – which they don't plan to do.
Jamie's work-around: sell three kernels of corn for $15 – and get a free t-shirt!
"I can't spend time and energy fighting these little fights. I have to move on," he says.
Indeed. It makes me want to buy my own snazzy white visor. Er, I mean, corn kernels. With a visor for free.
More in this series: