Archive for June, 2010

Local farmer sees opportunity in distillery

John WhittemoreParts of the road leading to John Whittemore’s place on Short Mountain can feel like someone’s private driveway at times. But once you’re there, you know it by his barking dogs and John’s commanding voice telling them to leave the car alone.

I caught up with John around 10 this morning to talk about signature gathering for the November referendum. John is excited about the opportunity a distillery would bring to Short Mountain and is helping gather necessary signatures to bring it to the people of Cannon County for a vote.

When I pulled up, John had just put in a good half a day’s work on his Blues Hill Farm and nearby Morning Side Farm. He looks every bit the part with his overalls, straw hat and occasional spit of tobacco juice, a habit he admits he picked up from his grandfather.

Despite the ups and downs of farming life, John says he has never been happier than he is farming. After he met his wife Becca and had two children, Hank (14) and Anna (12), John made the move back to the area in search of a quality of life he remembered growing up, and he found it on Short Mountain.

Everything John’s family needs is here. Becca, a Vanderbilt graduate, home-schools their two children. John not only appreciates local culture, he supports it in various ways. John occasionally plays with a group a friends in a band called the Short Mountain Boys. For years he provided white oak materials to local renowned basket makers through the White Oak Timber Co-Op. He even has an active Screen Actors Guild membership through acting in local performances at the Arts Center.

The Whittemores grow pretty much everything they need. They rarely shop at a grocery store, and what they don’t have they trade to get. A neighboring Mennonite family has milk and cheese. John will trade corn for beans, and there is no shortage of wild game. In fact, there’s not much you can’t get on Short Mountain, and it’s been that way for more than 100 years.

Back in the early 1900s, John’s great grandfather, Roofie Parker, made what family lore says was widely respected whiskey and moonshine. John thinks his brother Clay might have helped run it around the hills. The law didn’t like it, and Roofie spent a couple of stints in state prison for it.

Several descendants have had their share of run-ins with the law, but John’s grandfather, Kenneth Parker, didn’t like the outlaw lifestyle much. He had other ideas and bought up land around Roofie and his brother. Kenneth raised cattle and farmed the land. He has a road now named for him.

Any farmer will tell you farming is hard work. If you are looking to make a living, you’ll probably have to settle with making a life. Like most farmers, John stays busy to make ends meet, and he likes the idea of a distillery producing an American brand of traditional Tennessee spirits on Short Mountain.

For John, a distillery would protect a way of life he wants for his children. It would create a sustainable relationship with local farmers and connect tourists with a story of Short Mountain and the community John knows well and wants share. He also sees the opportunity it can bring to our schools and local community.

It’s an opportunity that can’t come to Cannon County without a referendum, and John is working hard to make that happen.

If you see John in Woodbury, stop him and say hi, and if you want to give the voters a chance to decide whether they want a distillery in Cannon County, you can sign his petition.

Signature gathering for referendum begins

A couple of days ago we started slowly gathering signatures from our friends and neighbors who want to see a new opportunity for jobs and growth come to Cannon County.

As of today, we’re 7% of the way to our goal.

Starting July 1, you can start checking the thermometer here daily to see how close we are to the total number of  signatures we need to place a referendum on the November ballot. That will allow voters to decide whether they want to allow distilleries like the one that opens this weekend in Gatlinburg, TN or the Jack Daniel’s and George Dickel distilleries.

How to help: We’ve gotten a few folks contact us letting us know they want to sign our petition. If you would like for us to visit you, please remember to include your address and phone number so we can make sure you’ll be home. Let us know if you would like to help gather signatures as well. Only registered voters of Cannon County are eligible to sign the petition.

In the news: Don’t miss the article on our effort in this week’s Cannon Courier. If you are registered for their website, you can read the story here.

Our friends: One of the guys helping gather signatures is a long time Cannon County resident and farmer John Whittemore.  John’s great grandfather was a moonshiner in Cannon County. John’s on Facebook if you want to speak with him about helping us out. Check back later this week for more information about John and why he’s helping.

Help make Short Mountain Distillery a reality

June 21st, 2010 1 comment

Tennessee has a long and rich tradition going back to the 1800s of producing some of the world’s premier distilled spirits. For more than a century, only two distilleries were legally allowed to provide the world with traditional Tennessee whiskeys.

Last year, the state legislature passed a law to help create jobs and open tourism opportunities to counties across the state by allowing legal distilleries like the world famous Tennessee brands Jack Daniel’s and George Dickel. This presents an opportunity that local farmers, land owners and small business owners want to see in Cannon County.

Billy Kaufman, a local farmer on Short Mountain, and his brothers want to make this dream a reality by opening a distillery on his land. It’s called Short Mountain Distillery, a locally owned and family funded manufacturer that will create jobs and a sustainable relationship with farmers throughout the county.

Short Mountain Distillery will bring tourists through Woodbury’s downtown square and to the small batch distillery located on a ten acre parcel surrounded by farm land on Short Mountain in Liberty, TN. This opportunity will generate revenue that will stay in our community and help preserve and strengthen a way of life we’ve enjoyed for generations.

What You Can Do To Help:
Before we can make this happen, we need your help. We’re currently gathering signatures for a November ballot referendum asking the voters of Cannon County whether or not we want this growth opportunity for our community.

We hope you will sign our petition and then join us and say “Yes!” If you want to sign the petition or want to help, please contact us. If you are on Facebook, become a fan, and thank you for supporting opportunity for Cannon County!

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