Lessons Learned with Kristi and James Caldwell

These urbanites-turned-farmers and -distillers share their top three tips for making a living off the land.

By Jodi Helmer | Photos By David McIlvride

FL: You talked about the learning curve for farming being quite steep. How did you figure out what it would take to get the farm and the distillery up and running?

James Caldwell: I’ve read stacks of books on raising animals and distilling, read articles online, watched YouTube videos, and talked to other farmers and distillers to get advice. The community of distillers we have here in [British Columbia] has been incredibly supportive. We also belong to the American Distilling Institute to connect with people who can answer questions and offer advice.

Kristi Caldwell: We have never, from the beginning—and I hope we never lose this—been too proud to ask questions and ask advice of anyone who will share it with us. We’ve been very upfront about the fact that we’re new to all of this, and people have been very generous with their time.”

FL: What are some of the benefits of starting a farm and farm distillery?

KC: Being a small business is a tough row to hoe, when everything is mass production and large-scale department stores. When you go to a local vegetable stand or winery or, in our case, a distillery, you get to meet the people who planted the seeds, nurtured the fields, harvested the grains, and distilled the product and feel a connection to that. It’s a sense of community and a feeling that the product is valued.

So, when there are like-minded people who are willing to really take those risks to create something they believe in, we want to support them.

JC: We want to support other local businesses by purchasing equipment and parts, grains and other products whenever possible, and we hope that once the distillery opens its doors, our neighbors will be here to support us, too.

FL: It sounds like a lot of hard work. Did you always have faith it would work?

JC: I spend a lot of late nights curled up in the fetal position, wondering if it’s going to work. All this stuff, as frustrating as it can be…is awesome. So, even though we’re in the infancy of our farming knowledge, we’re making a go and having some fun at it.”