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April 07, 2008

LeRoy farm = National water bottler

Sometimes an opportunity hits you like a wave.

Or, as in the case of Ben and Diane Nolt, it hits like a gusher.
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While drilling a well for their new rural Fillmore County home near LeRoy, the couple tapped something 400 feet below their land that washed away plans of semi-retirement.

Now three years after hitting an artesian spring, “pumping hundreds of gallons a minute,” a 21,000-square-foot bottling facility stands by the well with a sign that says “Artesian Fresh” in front.

After 38 years working in agriculture, why did the couple decide to dive into the bottled water industry?

“Everybody that tasted the water said, ‘You should bottle and sell this,” explains Ben Nolt.

The first step was having the water from the spring tested. It came up with a pH balance of 7. That means the water has no acidity or alkalinity.

Next the Minnesota Health Department checked the well and it was fine for bottling. Next the couple did lots of research about the possibility.

Was there any fear that the well might run dry?

“Not in our lifetime” was ruling by experts that inspected the well.

By April 2007, the Nolts decided to take the plunge and start a water company.
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Now they are just waiting on a final examination by the United States Department of Agriculture.
“We hope to start bottling within a week,” said Ben Nolt, standing next to a machine set to package cartons of water-filled bottles with either the Artesian Fresh label or a private label for a customer.

The private label water business is aimed at companies like IBM or Mayo Clinic that could offer water bottles with their own logos on them. It could also be done for a special event like a festival, wedding or business celebration.

“We already have a one million bottle order from Omaha, Neb.,” says Nolt.

While the private label business might be more profitable, expect the majority of the 6,000 bottles a day to end up on retail shelves or office water coolers with Artesian Fresh labels. They hope to have the bottles in area stores such as in Harmony, Spring Valley and Rochester.

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That's pretty cool. Hope it works out well for 'em.

Jeff, will you keep us posted as to when the bottle may be sold in stores? My curiousity would like to try it!

JHouse,

I will keep an eye on this and keep everybody posted.

As an old farm boy, this project is pretty interesting to me.

Check http://www.artesianfresh.com frequently - I would imagine there will be an announcement on their website...
And William, no, I am not affiliated with Artesian Fresh, but know the Marketing Director. It's a great product (I did get to taste it) and a neat story...

Congratulations to the Nolt family for taking a chance at something new. The article doesn't mention if the MPCA or the DNR were involved to determine the impact of pumping hundreds of gallons of spring water each minute from that area. When Perrier attempted to pump a similar amount of spring water in Adams County, WI eight years ago, they caused water levels in nearby wells and streams to drop. Ultimately, Perrier was forced to abandon its bottling project due to political and community pressure. Type "Perrier" and "Adams County WI" into your web search tool for more info. Hopefully there is enough water near the Nolts to go around and the Nolts' investment will be profitable.

Yeah, seems like a great idea, but...seems like they are taking a lot of the natural resource out for profit. Kinda like harvesting deer to sell at Rochester Produce, or opening a meat market in the country, selling venison and rabbits. Except there are hunting laws and seasons...

I don't know - from what I have read, the water is under pressure (the spring is actually "pumping hundreds of gallons a minute" itself; the water is not "extracted" forcefully). To me, it would be like finding oil on your property - would any of you plug that hole, or would you sell it?

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