Over the last few weeks, a call went out to the craft distillers to make hand sanitizers for first responders and others. Merridale and many from the BC Craft Distillers Guild have jumped into action to figure out how to do this. Most of us have never made a product like this before, but Guild Members worked together closely sharing information and recipes, which has been incredibly inspiring.
At Merridale Distillery, our first call for help came from one of our growers, Dr. Robert Anderson. Hand sanitizer was desperately needed for Home Care Workers to take with them on their home visits. These workers are out on the front lines of the pandemic and needed something portable.
Because we pick our fruit in the fall, ferment it into cider, and then distill the cider into spirits in our small still, we didn’t have the neutral spirits available to make it. Luckily, our good friends at Averill Creek, Wendy and Andy Johnston had grain alcohol they could spare.
We then reached out to Gifty at Shea Butter Market, a long-time collaborator who has been making our hand creams, cider soaps and lip balms for years. Understanding how often the hand sanitizer would be used, we wanted to create something that wouldn’t dry or irritate the skin.
Gifty brought her skin care expertise to the table, along with her Baraka Shea Butter, which is hand-made by women and families from the village of Kperisi in Northern Ghana. She helped us work on a formulation that added in a little Shea Butter and Coconut oil, so that it would smell great and feel good.
The second key ingredient in hand sanitizer after the alcohol is aloe gel. As the supply chain slowed down, there was no aloe to be found anywhere. We searched. Gifty searched. And, finally we located some at Voyageur in Surrey. When they learned that the aloe was for hand sanitizer for Home Care Workers, they jumped into action helping to ensure that our order was ready before the end of the day on Friday.
Understandably, couriers are extremely busy right now and we couldn’t find a way to get our newly acquired Aloe Gel to the Island. So, in jumped Karen, a Vancouver-based member of our family. She picked up the aloe, packed it up and headed to the ferry terminal. Rick, our owner, in the meantime had hopped on the ferry as a walk-on. They did a quick pass-off at Tsawwassen and Rick rode the ferry back to the Island with a suitcase of Aloe Gel in tow.
With the last ingredient finally in hand, Gifty’s team sprang into action, quickly getting an assembly line in place. The hand sanitizer was made, packaged and labeled in less than 24 hours. The following afternoon, we dropped off the packaged hand sanitizer for our nurses in the Duncan hospital.
We would like to extend a huge thank you to Shea Butter Market, Averill Creek, Voyageur Soap & Candle, Karen Symmes, and of course, our local health care workers and Dr. Anderson for reaching out! Seeing a community pull together on a project like this is heartwarming. It’s the good part of the bad that is happening right now.
As we move forward with further production, most of our product will be given away to first responders, but we will have a limited amount for our customers. We have stayed open in the eatery supplying take away foods for your freezer and pantries. Our cider and spirits shelves are also stocked. To customers coming into the Farmhouse for take-away foods, cider, or spirits, we are making one bottle of sanitizer available per person at our cost of $5. Please support local during these trying times, whether it be here or another business close to your home. We want businesses to survive and be there when this passes. Stay Safe. Stay Positive. Stay supportive.