A Fishers company is working to redevelop a former coal mining site in Greene County. Land Betterment Corp. says work has already begun to transform the idled Landree Mine in Jasonville into a “farm-to-bottle” craft distillery. The company, which is run by two Indiana University graduates, says when the project is complete, the distillery will create dozens of jobs, many of which will be filled by former coal miners.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Land Betterment Executive President Kirk Taylor said they bought the site from a defunct New York hedge fund.
“When they lost their contract for (Indianapolis Power & Light Co.), they did not know what to do with the property and was just going to let it sit (and) not take care of any environmental issues,” said Taylor. “And so we started brainstorming about what would be a great, simple use for this property? There’s 22 acres of farmland there. There’s also nice ponds surrounded by trees and the idea of a farm-to-bottle craft distillery popped in our mind.”
Taylor says they spoke with many of the former coal miners who were excited about the idea of coming back to use their skills in a different way.
Land Betterment Executive Chairman Mark Jensen says they are in the midst of major environmental remediation, which is a main focus for the company.
“Since we took the property over, and we acquired it throughout a 363 sale in August through bankruptcy with the sole purpose of reclaiming this property because we knew it wasn’t going to get done otherwise, we have moved an unbelievable amount of coal refuse,” said Jensen. “We’ve taken down probably about a third of the structures already. We’re repurposing the warehouse to turn it into the distillery.”
The company is partnering with experts from Kentucky who Jensen says have started three distilleries over the past 10 years. As part of the “farm-to-bottle” aspect of the distillery, the company will also be planting many of its ingredients, including rye, on-site.
“If you look at a lot of the distilleries across the country, you can’t talk about a whole lot of them that are farm-to-bottle; that’s not a very common theme,” said Jesnen. “From our perspective, we saw the opportunity to do so because we had the land. Not 100% of our products we produce will come from our own farms but we’re going to use as much of it as we possibly can.”
Jensen says the former coal miners are excited about the possibility of the new distillery, which will be known as Coal Craft Spirits.
“These are people that really work well with their hands, super intelligent people. They don’t want to sit behind a computer and program. That’s just not what they want to do. They’re really talented with their hands and they want to build something; they want to create something. We’re teaching them a whole new trade that they historically haven’t done and they’re taking that opportunity to better themselves in the same process.”
Jensen says the company is currently working on the permitting process for the mine, including the selection of equipment. He says the hope is to begin operating very quickly starting with creating vodka and eventually bourbon.
Taylor says they bought the site from a defunct New York hedge fund.
Jensen says the “farm-to-bottle” concept was a unique attraction for the company.