By Anna Jauhola
Minnesota’s furthest north distillery has transformed its business to include the production of hand sanitizer. Through emergency changes in federal regulations, Far North Spirits is able to help essential businesses and organizations by manufacturing and donating 5-gallon jugs in Kittson County.
“Distilleries in Minnesota started doing this when we realized it’s something we can make,” said Mike Swanson, co-owner of Far North. “We’ve been mixing up hand sanitizer in small quantities here at this distillery, but the quantities are very quickly increasing.”
In the last week of March, Swanson donated the first batch of sanitizer to Kittson Healthcare in Hallock. He anticipates he will be refilling that jug this week sometime.
“Our main focus was, how do we get this product into the places where it’ll have the most impact on breaking up the transmission routes of this disease,” Swanson said. “And we determined those places to be anywhere with a high number of touchpoints. Even in a small area like this, we tend to congregate in fewer places.”
Before starting Far North Spirits, Swanson worked for the company EcoLab in research and development, corporate marketing and in the field. He had experience working during the H1N1 virus outbreak, so he knew the vital importance Far North could play in manufacturing hand sanitizer.
So far, Swanson has given sanitizer to Kittson Healthcare, EMS personnel and other essential businesses and organizations.
While he is brewing up more hand sanitizer, Kathy Johnson, director of Kittson County Social Services, has been fielding calls from essential businesses and organizations that want sanitizer. So far, she has determined a regular route they follow twice a week.
With the snow that dropped late last week, and other issues, Swanson had some trouble sourcing materials needed to make sanitizer.
“Some shipping has been delayed, but we’re doing the best we can,” he said. “Luckily, Minnesota is a state that makes things. We have manufacturing facilities in the state that we’re sourcing raw materials from. It’s just been delayed a few days in getting here.”
He said Far North will continue making sanitizer as long as necessary to ensure high touchpoints, like grocery stores, daycares and medical facilities, remain as safe as possible.
Far North is not selling or donating sanitizer to individuals.
“They can wash their hands at home, and they’re supposed to be staying home anyway under the governor’s orders,” Swanson said.
If any essential businesses or organizations would like hand sanitizer, they can contact Johnson at 843-2689 or Emergency Manager Scot Olson at 843-2113. Any essential businesses or organizations outside Kittson County may purchase sanitizer from Far North Spirits by calling 612-720-3738.
By Anna Jauhola