From seed to spirit to sanitizer: a COVID-19 relief effort

A grain farming and whiskey distilling business in northern Illinois is shifting their focus to hand sanitizer production to fill a shortage during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Whiskey Acres co-founder Jamie Walters tells Brownfield once health precautions from the pandemic shut down their “seed to spirit” business, they wanted to use their facility to help out.

“We really saw a public need here and it was a capability that with relatively minimal re-tooling, we could be part of the solution.”

Walters says within a week, the White House and FDA lifted restrictions on their alcohol license to allow production of sprayable liquid hand sanitizer and they got a formula from the World Health Organization. But now, their biggest obstacle is obtaining supplies.

“We need glycerin, we need hydrogen peroxide and most importantly we need bottles with spray nozzles. We are looking for that stuff desperately.”   

Otherwise he says it has been smooth transition as they have received an outpouring of support and their employees are eager to help.

“We are all in this together. The best-case scenario is that it’s not needed anymore, and we can go back to our daily lives. But, in the meant time, I think we all have to adapt and do what we can to play our part.”

Walters says they will begin production Monday and start by donating the sanitizer to local hospitals and locations with shortages. He says they have had inquiries from large hospital chains to purchase the sanitizer, so they are considering turning it into a temporary business to refund their losses from the halt of whisky production and closure of Illinois bars and restaurants.

Interview with Jamie Walters

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