LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- By the end of the day Saturday, visitors will easily put away well over 100,000 mint juleps at Churchill Downs. And everyone can thank a local farmer for making sure every iconic drink is adorned with a fresh sprig of mint.

Ahead of the Kentucky Derby, Dohn and Nelson Gardens is a buzz of activity. The ten-acre farm is tucked away behind homes and apartments in Pleasure Ridge Park. This is where all the mint for Churchill Downs comes from.

Bill Dohn owns and operates the farm, which used to be named Dohn and Dohn Gardens. Over the years, he guessed he’s hired hundreds of school kids to help him out on the farm, including Nick Nelson.

“I started working for Bill pretty young, around 14 or 15,” Nelson.said 

He kept working for Dohn through high school and college and said it sparked his interest in agriculture.

“This was kind of my first introduction into farming,” Nelson said. “It kind of helped me figure out that I really liked it.”

Nelson has a farm of his own about 45 minutes away. But he kept coming back to help Dohn and suggested that maybe someday they should partner up.

“He came back and kept bugging me about this," Dohn said. "So we started a partnership the first of the year."

For these two new partners, the farm’s mint is a labor of love. Dohn said it is a crop that needs to be maintained all year, so they have to dedicate valuable land to the mint and only mint.

For the 144th running of the Kentucky Derby, Nelson is learning the ropes for how to plan planting and harvesting the mint from Dohn. To have everything delivered to Churchill Downs on time, the crew has to start cutting mint two weeks before Derby.

The farm will send around 4,000 pounds of mint to the track in order to garnish and estimated 127,000 of the iconic drinks.

So while you’re sipping that minty, bourbon concoction, Nelson wants you to know that “a lot of hard work went into it. And I hope they enjoy it!”

The farm has been growing a little bit of everything since the 1930s. It’s changes over the years and weathered every storm. But Dohn is excited for this new partnership with someone who has a true passion for farming and also sees the Derby mint as a badge of honor.

“I’ve spent a lot of time bending over pulling weeds in my lifetime,” said Dohn, looking over his fields. “And I’m proud of it. It’s fun to watch the Derby on TV and see somebody sipping on a mint julep and know that, well, one of the boys cut that mint.”

To see all of our coverage from Churchill Downs this week, click here.

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