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On-farm distillery adds value to crops

Tasting and touring at R/Farm Distilling Co. brings thousands to the farm and the next generation into the family business.

Laura Handke

June 18, 2024

4 Min Read
Dylan Rosier, Missouri farmer
REVENUE STREAM: Missouri farmer Dylan Rosier and his family raise corn, wheat and rye to use at their R/Farm Distilling Co. Tours and taste-testing offer customers a chance to see a working farm and distillery up close at this agritourism destination. Photos by Laura Handke

At a Glance

  • Missouri corn farmers venture into spirits market.
  • Rye and wheat add bourbon and whiskey to product line.
  • More than 10,000 visitors stopped by R/Farms in 2023.

Traveling through northwest Missouri on Interstate 29, it’s hard to miss the R/Farm Distilling Co. billboards that dot the roadside. The field-to-sip experience offered by Holt County’s Rosier family is a new take on farm diversification and sustainability.

“The current generation is always looking for ways to bring the next generation back to the farm. Every generation of our family has done that, but our next generation is so big, we are going to have to get really creative,” says Dylan Rosier, co-owner and founder of R/Farm.

He researched different opportunities to grow the farm such as specialty crops and even aquaculture, but he wanted to make use of the family’s own row crops.

“Distilling was a good fit and so we started talking about it, and I think, if I’m being honest, Mom and Dad both probably thought we boys would get sick of it, and it would die off,” Rosier recalls. “But making money on No. 2 yellow corn is getting harder and harder, and we just thought that we had to try something different.”

Overlooking the Missouri River bottom, R/Farm Distilling Co. opened in 2022. Last year, 10,000 people visited the family farm.

“We never imagined we would have so many people in northwest Missouri visit our farm,” Rosier says.

To pull off this latest ag endeavor takes the entire family.

Related:View from peach road

Down to distillery business

Today, R/Farm is operated by the third and fourth generations of Rosiers to work the land — Rosier and his wife, Lauren, and their four daughters; his parents, Kim and Kirby; his brother Cole, his wife, Holly, and their son and daughter; and his brother Gage and his wife, Ashley, and their two sons and a daughter.

“We run the distillery just like we do the rest of the farm. It’s a business,” Rosier adds. “We all have to sit down and make decisions together and then go eat dinner together.”

A table displaying R/Farm Distilling Co. products

The family produces all the corn, wheat and rye that go into its bourbon and whiskey products.

When the idea first hatched, the plan was to buy a small still to distill and bottle right on the main farmstead. A grander business model would quickly overtake that plan.

The family wanted to share their process with the public, but they needed the main farm to continue daily operations. So, they shifted the distillery to a plot of land purchased in the 1990s.

Next steps involved hiring a consulting firm who conducted a feasibility study and helped to ensure there were no holes in the business plan.

The family broke ground in 2020 and lived the next two years under daily construction demands. In 2022, R/Farm Distilling Co. doors opened to the public.

Related:Explore charm of Missouri agritourism

Management of the distilling operation is a family affair:

  • Cole Rosier — master distiller

  • Holly Rosier — retail general manager

  • Ashley Rosier — director of marketing and distribution

The rest of the Rosier family manages the distillery just as they do the farming operation, stepping up to help when and where they are needed.

Looking ahead to 2024, they are working to secure a distributor and develop aged products. But success comes with a warning from their matriarch.

“Mom laid down the law when we first started the distillery and told us all that if we started fighting, we would shut the doors,” Rosier shares with a smile. “We just do everything with a family-first goal. We want to be authentic, give people a real look at what it takes to produce food and hope they leave here thinking, ‘Those were really great people.’”

Diversifying, advocating for ag

The Rosiers open their doors to give customers an understanding of Missouri agriculture production.

In fields outside of the distillery’s lounge area, they plant strips of wheat and rye used in R/Farm bourbon.

“We bring people to these plots on every tour,” Rosier explains. “This is our chance to get on our soapbox and talk about agriculture — everything that goes into not just a bottle of bourbon, but the food on their dinner table.”

An R/Farm sign in front of a rye field

He says that sharing the family’s farming history and advocating for production agriculture has always been a passion. He serves on the Missouri Corn Growers board of directors and U.S. Grains Council.

“Seeing what is happening in other countries and learning firsthand how it affects what we are doing in the U.S. has been eye-opening,” Rosier adds. “Service on these boards and teams changes your perspective. We are so fortunate to live right here where we do.”

The family is focused on expanding marketing efforts to increase brand awareness and customer experiences. Want to explore R/Farms or R/Farms Distilling Co. products? Visit their website and Facebook page.

Handke writes from Easton, Kan.

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