Work on this special project began in 2015 when the Delaware Valley Fields Foundation partnered with Greg Roth at Penn State’s Agricultural Extension. The mission was to return Rosen Rye to Pennsylvania farmers and, in turn, to its distillers. The first very small amount of Rosen (5 ounces) from the USDA seed bank was planted in the fall of 2015. By 2016, Penn State had grown a few pounds of seed, and by the following year, they had nearly an acre! By harvest in the summer of 2018, there was enough Rosen rye to distill into whiskey with about 50 pounds of seed left over to replant in the fall. After the harvest in July of 2019, Stoll & Wolfe Distillery will have 500 pounds of milled Rosen Rye (care of the Delaware Valley Fields Foundation), and on September 7th, that rye will be distilled into Pennsylvania rye whiskey.
No one has produced rye whiskey using Rosen Rye since Dick Stoll, the last distiller at Michter’s Distillery (in Shaefferstown, PA), locked its doors for the last time in 1990. As the demand for grain from the distillery disappeared with its closing, so did the reason for any farmers to grow it. Now, 30 years later, when Dick Stoll took on a role as master distiller at Stoll & Wolfe and showed interest in using Rosen again, he revealed how impossible it would be to source. Laura Fields and the Delaware Valley Fields Foundation recognized that this vacuum in the grain market was actually an exciting economic opportunity for local farmers! Distilleries had been an enormous economic driver in the agricultural supply chain before Prohibition and could fill an important role again. Stoll and Wolfe Distillery is poised to become one of the first of many distilleries to offer competitive pricing on heritage grains in the state of Pennsylvania.
“It’s amazing that the last person to use Rosen Rye, will be the first person to use Rosen Rye again,” said Fields. “When the variety of rye being used to make whiskey is shown to be important in the taste and quality of the final product, I’ll be thrilled!”
Four years of turning a handful of seeds into a harvest has finally come to pass. The milled Rosen will be mashed, fermented on Tuesday, September 3rd in Lititz,Pa. That mash will be distilled on Saturday, September 7th and barreled for aging soon after. It will be the first time this heritage grain will been made into whiskey since Dick Stoll mashed and distilled Rosen rye at Michter’s Distillery in Shaefferstown, Pa decades ago. How appropriate that the last man to distill at Michter’s will be the first to bring Rosen back again.
The Delaware Valley Fields Foundation will continue to work to return to Rosen rye to Pennsylvania’s farms and distilleries. Each year, the harvests will be gifted to different farmers and distillers to maintain and preserve the hundreds-of years-old tradition of making Pennsylvania rye whiskey right here in the Keystone State. The goal has always been to see the beneficiaries of the Seed Spark Campaign go to local farmers, businesses and the communities that they support.
More work continues on The SeedSpark Project in September 2019 with deliveries of Keystone Rosen rye seed to 3 new planting locations across Pennsylvania.
The American Whiskey Convention, which takes place each spring in Philadelphia, Pa, was founded in 2016 by the Delaware Valley Fields Foundation to support local agriculture through education of the public, outreach to the agricultural community, and economic stimulus to participating vendors. In other words, you come for the whiskey, but you can’t help but learn all about the grain it’s made from while meeting the members of an agricultural supply chain that every distillery needs to function while you’re there. The AWC demonstrates for every guest what’s truly involved from "grain to glass".
Proceeds from the American Whiskey Convention fund the DVFF’s Seed Spark Project, a partnership with Penn State’s Agricultural Extension, which supports the research and development of heritage grains. Funding helps with research on crop treatments, studies on fertilizer application, harvesting and planting costs, testing of seeds for any disease as well as testing for malting capabilities, and the distribution of this information to farmers. This partnership with Penn State, which began over four years ago, has expanded to now include Stoll and Wolfe Distillery (based in Lititz, PA), Dancing Star Farms (based in Imler, Pa.) and Delaware Valley University.