Fabulous People: Colby Frey

Colby Frey is the co-founder and whiskey farmer at Frey Ranch Distillery in Northern Nevada, one of only a few “estate distilleries” in the U.S. It has the distinction of putting Nevada on the map as a serious producer of American whiskey with its unique farm-to-glass operation and is one of the largest whiskey producers on the West Coast. Learn about Colby Frey…

Follow at: whiskeyfarmer_; @freyranchdistillery

Hometown: Fallon, NV

First job: As a generational family of farmers, I started working on the farm very young helping my dad and learning a lot from him along the way. Some of my fondest memories are of working alongside my father on the farm, where our family built our livelihood growing alfalfa and supplementing with various grain varieties in the off seasons. As a kid, we did so many different things together – from remodeling antique tractors and building wagons to driving large tractors and hands-on farm work. It’s what gave me the confidence to do anything, including building and operating my own whiskey distillery alongside my wife and co-founder, Ashley. My father taught me the ins and outs of farming that had been passed down from previous generations, but most importantly, he instilled in me that a farmer’s obligation is first and foremost as a steward of the land.

Favorite way to spend time in NV: My favorite thing to do is spend time with my wife, Ashley, and our two kids – whether that’s home at the Ranch or getting away for a change of scenery. We have a little house in Lake Tahoe, and love to get out on the water. Although I love to get away, often the best part about it is returning home. It makes me appreciate the Ranch more.  

Your biggest accomplishment and why: Absolutely my biggest accomplishment in life is my family. I have the best wife and kids, and as a family we love traveling together. I also enjoy doing projects with my 8-year-old son. We recently built checkerboards out of used whiskey barrels and a carved American flag out of wood. When I was little, I loved working with my dad in the shop and Ranch, and my son really reminds me of myself when I was his age. It’s a wonderful full circle moment for me.

On the Frey Ranch front, Ashley and I live and work on the land we cultivate. We’ve created a business that can outlive us, and which we hope to pass down to our children one day. Our goal is to pass the farm onto our kids in as good or better condition than we inherited it.

The biggest obstacle you overcame: As a farmer, we’re always overcoming obstacles. When you work in agriculture, you are at the mercy of Mother Nature. As a fifth-generation farmer, my family has weathered the storm both literally and figuratively – and at this stage, we’ve experienced every conceivable weather pattern in the Northern Nevada region. The key to survival is adaptation and realizing that there is no calendar or farmer’s almanac that will guide your success. You learn through trial and error, and fortunately when Ashley and I decided to launch our whiskey operation, we had a blueprint for how to navigate Mother Nature’s whims from more than a century of firsthand experience from my forefathers.

Frey Ranch Exterior wTractors (Jeff Dow)
Frey Ranch

Someone who inspires you and why: There is not one person per se, but I really appreciate and admire my team at Frey Ranch and my peers in the distilling and agriculture industries. Both professions aren’t easy, and there are so many obstacles, but everyone keeps chugging along while creating a really supportive community for each other. The most inspirational people to me are the ones that have tremendous pressure and still stay positive. 

Advice to someone pursuing a career path in what you do: Pay attention to the details, don’t sacrifice time and quality for monetary gain, keep your chin up, and always be ready to adapt and change.

Favorite quote: “If your not making dust, you’re eating dust.” 

It is a pun on the farm because we are always making dust, but in life if you are not out there moving forward, you are falling behind.  

Something someone would be surprised to learn about you: I also have my private pilot’s license and love to be in the air. It really gives you a different perspective seeing things from a bird’s-eye perspective. Driving around the Ranch and flying over it are totally different experiences. You see things from above you don’t typically see from the ground. It’s a great way to check my fields.

What makes someone fabulous: Being unique and authentic in a positive and special way. It takes all kinds of people to make the world go around. If everyone was the same, the world would be a boring place. 

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