Kentucky Derby Tours participants and many racegoers at Churchill Downs drink Mint Juleps on Kentucky Derby Day. We won’t discuss how many! I remember as a child, my parents grew the mint in our backyard that they used in Mint Juleps but that was for family parties.
Ever wonder how you produce enough mint for Mint Juleps for people during Kentucky Derby week at Churchill Downs?
Dohn & Dohn Gardens has the answer.
They grow the mint (a spearmint variety) that garnishes every signature Mint Julep at Churchill Downs in their backyard. Their backyard is not the usual backyard – their backyard is a small family farm in southern Jefferson County about 9 miles from the racetrack.
Dohn & Dohn Gardens have grown the mint professionally on 10 acres near Pleasure Ridge Park High School, where they also grows kale and nursery plants. They started supplying Churchill Downs in 1980. They sell mint all year but the pace of production definitely picks up as Derby week approaches. Bill Dohn and his part-time staff will harvest about 7 tons of mint leading up to Derby Day.
Each bundle is enough to make 70 mint juleps. The mint bunches are grouped into larger bundles, wrapped in damp newspaper to keep them from drying out, and tied together with twine. They’re then stacked vertically in boxes and ready to go.
The business is a family tradition (much like our Kentucky Derby Tours but started 17 years before). Carl Edward Dohn Sr., bought 65 acres in Pleasure Ridge Park in 1930. Carl produced turnips, mustard greens, collards, kale, spinach, green onions, and cauliflower. By the mid 1970’s, Carl had sold off all but 10 acres as his children did not have much interest in farming.
Then Bill came back from college and tried his hand at full-time farming and Dohn & Dohn Gardens was born.
Bill Dohn first lucked into supplying mint when delivering vegetables and a supplier needed mint. Bill offered some that his mother had planted.
A few years later, Bill Schneider of nearby Jeffersontown was too ill to harvest his mint and Dohn volunteered to help him. Sadly, Schneider passed away soon after and Dohn became the mint supplier.
Suburban sprawl is overtaking the area around Dohn & Dohn Gardens but we all hope they will keep going.
I know it is the BEST mint I have tasted in a Mint Julep. I hope y’all will appreciate the mint even more this year knowing the background story!
Want to see a video about Dohn & Dohn Gardens? See