A John Deere Publication
Closeup of a whiskey barrel with writing on it
Agriculture, Specialty/Niche   April 01, 2024


Distilling a Legacy

Interlocking the advancements of each generation with the next in mind.

by Martha Mintz

At the height of harvest 2023 Dallas and Courtney Glazik were greatly anticipating the birth of their first child. At the family's Paxton, Ill., distillery he shared a gift he'd prepared for his son—a gift generations in the making. A batch of bourbon whiskey set to be barreled the day of his arrival, bottled on his 21st birthday, and used to celebrate defining moments throughout his life.

The whiskey was distilled from grains grown by his father and uncles using seed saved from years of organic farming by his grandparents on land settled by his Irish immigrant ancestors.

If he continues the tradition his children's baby barrels may well be made of white oak staves harvested and prepared from trees planted by their grandfather. The path is being constructed if the next generation wants to walk it.

Long-term thinking is a Glazik family specialty. Dallas and his siblings, Will, Clayton, and Abby are fifth generation farmers as intent on setting up future generations for success as they are working for their own.

"We're extremely blessed with a generational time scale and feel compelled to continue it," says Will. He and his wife Laura have two children, Gus (5) and Rosie (3).

Together with their parents Jeff and Rita the siblings farm 1,000 acres of organic crops using conservation farming strategies. Will farms full time while the others balance off-farm jobs providing labor and specialty expertise to the farm and distillery.

For some families security for future generations means more land. The Glaziks prefer to do it differently—a choice modeled by Jeff and Rita. In the late 1990s when the farm economy was pushing them to get bigger or get out, they instead decided to transition to organic farming to add income on their 400-acre home farm.

Growing organic crops allowed them to tap into and even create their own value-added markets.

When Will returned to the farm with a degree in agronomy he took the organic model and pushed into conservation and soil-health building practices. This ended up providing yet another brick in the path for their next venture—Silver Tree Spirits.

They encourage customers to 'Take a Shot at Climate Change.'

"Data from COMET Farm Calculator tells us our intensive cover cropping, limited tillage and long rotations including perennial crops means each shot of our whiskey offsets about one mile of the average commute," Will says.

Above. 'From scratch' may not suffice to describe Silver Tree Spirits. All grain in the still—pictured with Dallas Glazik—is grown on the family's organic farm using heritage organic seed with outstanding distilling traits developed (unintentionally) by years of on-farm selection. It's aged in white oak barrels made from trees harvested by the family. Organic Bloody Butcher corn is the base for Cow Creek bourbon whiskey. Will says knowing the corn is bound for their still helps him tolerate the challenge of harvesting a crop with ear heights ranging from 4 to 6 feet.


Passion and value. Adding farm-connected businesses allows more family members to remain stakeholders. It also keeps things interesting. The distillery has brought fresh excitement to farming for Dallas.

"It used to be just going back and forth on the tractor for me. With the still, we can take what we grow—all the work, all the thinking and care—and put it in a bottle," he says. "We can say, 'Here's a product we've been part of from planting the seed to seasoning the barrel staves to corking the bottle,'" he says.

He and Will are even actively hunting the perfect yeast.

"Illinois used to be the whiskey capital of the U.S.," he says. Explaining the downfall of the industry being a lack of unionization prior to prohibition. Alcohol yeast becomes the dominant strain in areas around distilleries. "We're scraping bark and testing, trying to isolate yeast from one of those distilleries to make a true 1800s whiskey."

They already produced the first 100% whiskey sold in Illinois since prohibition. When they tapped the first barrel of the 2, 5, and 10-year batch, they sold out the 96 bottles in just 21 minutes.

"People drove from Chicago to buy the first bottles of Tillers. We didn't keep a single one for ourselves. I had to borrow a bottle for this photo shoot," Dallas says.

He'll patiently wait for the next barrels. They're good at waiting and planning. Knowing white oaks for barrel staves will be a limited commodity they've planted hundreds for their grandchildren.

They credit their hometown bank and using farmer savvy to scrap together critical equipment with making the lengthy startup process financially possible.

The next generation already shows indications of the family patience. Dallas begged his baby not to come until after harvest.

"Not 15 minutes after unloading the last wagon Clayton and I got the call to get to the distillery to fill the baby barrel," Will reports. Elliott Glazik clearly shares the family discipline of patience. ‡

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