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From Our Family Farm to Yours

Why I Farm

BECK'S WHY I FARM ROADTRIP - Nevada FARMER, Colby Frey

Published on Thursday, June 22, 2017

 

On the family ranch in Fallon, Nevada, Colby Frey is continuing his family’s legacy in a unique way. The family has been in the region since 1854, ten years before Nevada was even a state.

In 1944, Colby’s grandfather bought the farm where Colby grew up. “Senator Robert Douglas owned it and the main house was built in 1918.” He explains. “They used to call it the Douglas Mansion. It's kinda neat because my grandpa, before he bought this place, lived in a dirt dugout in the ground. It literally had a dirt floor, dirt walls. It had a wood front so he could have a door. He farmed a place on the side of town to save up enough money to put a down payment on this place. Robert Douglas wanted him to have this place because he knew how hard my grandpa worked, and he didn't have any kids that wanted to take it over. It's kind of a neat story.” Colby smiles.

 

 

Today, Colby is raising his own family in the historic home. Out his window is a row of antique tractors Colby and his father restored. “It's kind of our hobby together. It taught me a lot of mechanical skills, how to fix things and fix problems, and how to paint well. A couple of winters we built wagons. That taught me how to do wood working and metal working.” Colby recalls.

Just beyond the row of tractors stand several buildings that make the Frey Ranch even more unique. There’s a distillery, barrel room, malt house, and a beautiful tasting room. In addition to a working farm, Frey Ranch is an estate distillery. “An estate distillery means we grow, bottle, produce everything right here ourselves.” Colby explains. “We just want to do everything ourselves and we want to do it right.”
 

 

Surrounding the buildings are acres and acres of corn, rye, barley and wheat. “We're farmers first, so we grow all of the ingredients. There are certain things we can do in the field to grow better grains for distilling purposes.” Colby continues. For example, while farmers who are buying barley to feed to cattle are looking for high protein, that’s not desirable for the Freys.

 

 

In order to achieve the product they want, Colby may drought stress the crops or apply a different rate of fertilizer. “Those things almost always lower the yield, so it's kind of nice growing them ourselves, we can sacrifice quantity for quality.” Colby concludes.

There are other benefits to producing the grain themselves. “We oversized the distillery so we could make enough in the winter months and concentrate on distilling while we're not farming, then shut it down for the summer and concentrate on farming while we're not distilling.” Colby says. He enjoys the different seasons and responsibilities each brings.

 

 

“The other big problem is, many farms have to let their employees go over the winter. We don't want to have to do that. So now, we can bring all of the same employees that are growing all our ingredients for this distillery to help make the products that we just grew for the distillery, and then they help us bottle and do everything. It's kinda neat because they take a lot of pride in that and we're able to keep them busy year round.” He says with excitement.

Everyone on the ranch takes pride in the Nevada-grown spirits, and rightly so. Their gin recently won double gold at the San Francisco International Spirits Competition. With 1,800 entries, it’s the largest spirits competition in the world. “My wife says, 'When you take a bottle of our vodka home, for example, none of those ingredients inside that bottle have ever left our possession until you take it home.’” Colby repeats.
 


 

“It's a lot of pride that this is my family's farm and it's passed on from generation to generation. And I want to make sure that my kids get it. I think about that when things are tough. You say, 'I don't want to give up. We're not the sort of people to give up.'”

Through the challenges, Colby is especially thankful for Russell, who helps in the distillery day to day and his wife, Ashley, who keeps track of the books, compliance, and marketing. “It's kind of a good team because I get to go spend all the money and she gets to go pay all the bills.” He laughs. “I’ve got a lot of really good employees.”

"Why do I farm? It's just a love of being outside, and Mother Nature, and continuing on my family's legacy. I don't think I would be happy doing anything else."

That’s why Colby Frey farms. 

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