Farmery expands into hand sanitizer


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This article was published 27/03/2020 (984 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

If you’ve ever dreamed of owning and using a farm-to-table, locally produced personal cleaning product, that opportunity has arrived.

While Farmery Estate Brewery is continuing to produce beer at its facilities in Neepawa, the business is devoting some of its resources to produce alcohol of another sort.

Ethyl alcohol and hops grown on Farmery’s own farm are being used to make hand sanitizer, which is then dispensed into beer cans. Due to the limitations of those containers, they’re meant to be refills for existing dispensers.

Brothers Chris and Lawrence Warwaruk, owners of Farmery Estate Brewery in Neepawa, show cans of hand sanitizer they've produced as the brewery shifts part of its production from beer to sanitizer to help with measures to stop the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Tim Smith/The Brandon Sun)

Co-owner Lawrence Warwaruk told the Sun that he hopes that hand sanitizer production won’t prevent them from making beer down the road, but said “I think one is more important than the other right now. We’ll try to balance both.”

To prevent people from accidentally cracking one open and downing a can of liquid meant for external use only, large labels have been applied to make sure everyone knows what is inside.

So far only a limited amount of sanitizer has been produced as the brewery waits for some essential supplies to be trucked in from out of province before ramping up production. Even so, Farmery has already received a lot of interest since they announced sanitizer production via social media on Wednesday evening.

“I didn’t expect the demand to be so high,” Warwaruk said. “Within 15 minutes, we had 300 likes (and) shares and it just kept going higher and higher.”

According to Warwaruk, examples of organizations inquiring after Farmery’s sanitizer include border services, gas stations, retail outlets, pharmacies, municipal services, truckers and more.

Some cans of sanitizer will be donated to organizations in need, but they will also go up for sale in the near future.

Farmery Estate Brewery co-owner Chris Warwaruk attaches a label to a can of hand sanitizer. (Tim Smith/The Brandon Sun)

Normally, selling a product like this requires approval from Health Canada, but Warwaruk said that some of the rules have recently been relaxed in order to encourage production during the health crisis. It helped that the brewery already had its spirits licence.

The addition of hops from the family’s farm isn’t just a nod to their tradition of adding the ingredient to all the drinks the brewery makes. Warwaruk said that hops have a natural anti-microbial property.

In fact, the modern version of the India Pale Ale was created when an extra-hoppy beer was made to preserve the liquid as it was shipped from England to India in the 19th century.

The alcohol content of Farmery’s sanitizer will also help fight germs. The American Centre for Disease Control advises that hand sanitizers must be at least 60 per cent alcohol by volume to be strong enough to kill harmful germs — Farmery’s is at 70 per cent.

It should be noted that while Health Canada is relaxing the rules for industrial production of hand sanitizer to address the ongoing shortage, this does not apply to personal production. Health Canada advises individuals not to try to make hand sanitizer at home using alcoholic products intended for human consumption.

Repackager Michael Schell, brewmaster Ben Nehfinji and canner James Ewashko work at Farmery Estate Brewery in Neepawa. (Tim Smith/The Brandon Sun)

Another important note is that proper handwashing is more effective at killing harmful germs than hand sanitizers when it is possible to do so.

Apart from getting sanitizer production started, Farmery is still carrying out mostly normal business. There are various tanks of beer in different stages of the fermentation process.

Fortunately, the company has only had to put one employee on leave due to the pandemic. Warwaruk said that it is more important than ever to support local businesses to help them make it through the current crisis.

“The depths of this economic downturn (are) going to be felt for a long time,” he said. “The more that people can support local breweries, it’s going to have a huge impact on our feasibility in years to come.”

To encourage social distancing, Farmery is putting a greater emphasis on online orders. They’ve even started offering free delivery to a select few communities in the province: Brandon, Neepawa, Minnedosa, Portage la Prairie, Steinbach and Winnipeg. 

Warwaruk said that customers receiving their beer orders are being given a can of hand sanitizer as a free addition.

A can of hand sanitizer made at Farmery Estate Brewery in Neepawa. (Tim Smith/The Brandon Sun)


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