Can you tell 605 readers about your South Dakota roots?
I grew up on a farm in small town Mount Vernon. We raised corn, soy beans, pigs, and cows. I grew up doing a ton of farm work and loving that, loving my childhood. I also loved the sports, the community, and how sports are so important to the community of small towns. I played football, basketball, ran track, played baseball in the summers, and just had a great childhood. I was able to take it and grow and become a professional athlete from that, but I got my start in a small town like a lot of kids from here.
What is your favorite South Dakota spot to visit?
Home, the farm. As far as other places, Sica Hollow [State Park] up by Sisseton is a great spot, a great national park. It’s kind of unnoticed, a lot of people don’t recognize it. It’s one of my favorites. But as far as places I would rather go, I’d rather go to my farm where I grew up and just spend time there.
How has Gray Duck Vodka been received in the Midwest?
It’s been very good. We’ve been around for about 14 months, so we’re in five states now. We just went into Wisconsin about a month ago. In Minnesota, Duck Duck Gray Duck is the primary game that kids play, so it’s been the most popular state [to sell in] obviously. It’s really become very popular there and obviously as we’ve grown, we’ve tried to grow the brand as well. We want to stay focused in these five states now and continue to grow the access to it so people can get to it and have it.
Why is it important that the vodka is entirely homegrown?
It’s [about] being hyperlocal, community-based, state-based, regional-based. You want to have a product where you are what you say you are. We’re leaning on Minnesota farmers who are making their corn and selling it to us. We wanted to keep it local, and we really want to build a charity piece back into it, so when we say we’re building it from our community, we want to give back to our community. It’s really a brand we want to have, and I think it’s a company you can be proud of.
What does South Dakota mean to you?
It means everything. It’s my identity. It’s who I am, and it’s what made me who I am. Now even though I don’t live here, I love coming back and [I love] the people. I just think it’s so important in so many different ways, and it’s always fun to be able to come back. You always know somebody, you always see somebody driving by on the highway and you’re like, ‘Wait, I know them.’ I just love that small town vibe that I don’t think you’ll ever lose here.
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