NMU alumnus Richard Anderson ('78 MA) participated in a panel discussion titled “Rural Renewal: How Small Towns in the Heartland are Making a Comeback” at the Aspen Ideas Festival in late June. He is co-founder and COO of the family-owned Iron Fish Distillery, established in 2016 on an abandoned farmstead in Thompsonville, Mich.
According to its website, Iron Fish is Michigan's first working farm solely dedicated to the practice of distilling small-batch craft spirits. It utilizes grains grown on site and sourced from Michigan farmers with practices that respect the health of nearby watersheds.
Anderson discussed how the distillery could have a transformative effect on agriculture and associated suppliers. He and other panelists also addressed broader concepts such as what economic opportunity looks like, who's driving it and which catalysts will lead small-town economies to a prosperous future.
According to the program description of the panel, “rural communities dotting America's middle may lack the economic luster that characterize Silicon Valley and the DC Beltway, but innovation and entrepreneurial zeal are more than alive and well.”
The Aspen Ideas Festival, presented by the Aspen Institute in partnership with The Atlantic, is billed as “the nation's premier public gathering place for leaders from around the globe and across many disciplines to … discuss the ideas and issues that both shape our lives and challenge our times.” Featured speakers include innovative thinkers, writers, artists, business people, teachers and other leaders.