The message on the back of Caledonia Spirits' latest product comes from Jack Lazor of Butterworks Farm. "For the past 40 years, our family has been putting the care of the Earth first and foremost in our lives. We have taught countless other organic farmers the ethic of giving back more than we take," Lazor writes.
Early Riser Corn Whiskey takes something from Lazor — namely, his corn — but Todd Hardie, founder of Caledonia Spirits, is determined to use the limited-edition whiskey to give something back to this farmer who has contributed so much to Vermont's food system. On Saturday, May 24, at 1 p.m., Caledonia Spirits' facility in Hardwick will host a release party for the whiskey to help Lazor, who is uninsured, pay for treatment related to his cancer and kidney failure.
"I envision a community coming together to honor Jack — to love Jack," Hardie says. "There are many people like me who have been touched by him in their lives."
The event will not only benefit Lazor but also show off his hardy Early Riser corn, which he has spent the past decade perfecting. Caledonia has made just 200 bottles of Early Riser, and they'll be for sale exclusively at the release party, in flask-style bottles. Head distiller Ryan Christiansen has reserved the rest of the mash to make 250 bottles of bourbon, which will be available later this year.
For $140, guests can reserve a box packed with Vermont goods donated to help Lazor raise as much as $20,000, or half of his accumulated medical bills. Inside the box, besides Early Riser, guests will find a half-pound piece of seasonal Alpha Tolman cheese from Jasper Hill Farm, tofu from Vermont Soy, veggies from Pete's Greens and seeds from High Mowing Organic Seeds. Butterworks Farm is contributing a bag of cornmeal, and Lazor will sign copies of his book The Organic Grain Grower at the event.
"It will be a time of gathering and talking and mingling together; a chance for many people in agriculture to pause for a few hours and come and be with Jack and [wife] Anne," says Hardie. If that's not enough to attract a who's who of food-industry folks, there's always the limited-edition whiskey.
Guests must reserve a box ahead of time by emailing Hardie at firstname.lastname@example.org.