Category Archives: Hops

Meet Huguenot Hops in their Third Season.

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Huguenot Hops in Chesterfield County is run by business partners Devon Kistler and Kurt Stanfield. We wrote about them in 2013 and 2014. Click on those stories to learn more about how this farm got its start and how it is managed. This month’s story follows the business into its third year. We visited with Devon on a hot, sunny day in August to catch up on the farm’s progress and watch as family and friends helped harvest the crop.

Huguenot Hops has become one of the largest hop yards in the region. Devon and Kurt are leading the charge to improve industry infrastructure including mechanized harvest and post-harvest processing, all while cultivating their passion for growing great hops and building valuable relationships with brewers, growers, and supporters.

How is the 2015 season going?
It’s been a tough season with all the rain and with our expansion. We added 1,200 new plants, 1.25 acres, this year and we’re still learning how to better mechanize some of the processes we did by hand last year.

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What varieties did you grow this year?
Chinook, Nugget, Zeus, Crystal, Cascade and trials of three new varieties.

Besides the big expansion, did you try anything new this season?
We are doing lots of new things this year. We installed a mechanical harvester and commercial size oast. We also purchased a packager that will vacuum seal and nitrogen flush the mylar bags of pelletized hops.

Click on the video to see Huguenot’s new harvester in action during an August 16th picking day.

After three years in this business, what is the biggest challenge that you have encountered along the way?
Learning how to scale up this crop. At one acre it can be managed by hand, but beyond that you need machines, farming implements, and a lot more time.

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What’s your favorite variety to grow, and why?
Cascade is easy and very reliable, but we love the flavor and aroma from the Zeus, it’s our favorite. However, Japanese beetles prefer the Zeus and they were the first to get downy mildew.

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What are your thoughts on using social media as a marketing tool for hops?
Social media is important to get craft beer enthusiasts aware of local hops production, and it’s also a way to get volunteer help. But marketing is a grower-to-brewer relationship. Brewers can buy hops cheaper, but that’s not what this is all about.

Do you have any successes you’d like to share from this season?
Just surviving the expansion will be a success.

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Above: Hop bines are cut down from the trellis in the field and fed into the harvester. Helpers sort through the bines and pick cones.

The industry has already changed significantly since 2014. What is your outlook on your grower organization, Old Dominion Hops Cooperative, and the Virginia industry as a whole?
The Co-Op has grown from about fifty members last year to over one hundred and the interest is growing even more. I get two or three emails and calls each week about growing hops. The exciting part is that we now have two facilities in the state that can process hops and allow brewers to use local Virginia hops in flagship beers.

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Do you have any advice for others who are interested in growing hops?
Help other farmers with planting, stringing and harvesting hops before you plant your own. Start small, less than half an acre, and know the costs as well as the market before you begin. Work with the local extension agent to help with soil samples and identification of pests and mildew. Join the Co-Op!

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Additional Resources for Readers

Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Hops Page

Huguenot Hops on the web and Facebook

Old Dominion Hops Cooperative

Meet Piedmont Hops in their Fourth Season

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Piedmont Hops is run by business partners David Goode and Steve Brown. Our 2013 story tracked Piedmont Hops in its second season and we followed its third harvest with another story in 2014. Click on those stories to learn more about David and Steve’s background and their experiences building a role a new industry.

All of the photos for this story were provided by Steve’s wife, Kathryn Brown.

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When David Goode and Steve Brown began growing hops, it was just a hobby, but by 2012 they found themselves growing commercially to meet the needs of the rapidly-growing Virginia craft beer industry. Today, the business consists of 800 plants grown at Piedmont Hops’ two sites in Chesterfield County, Virginia and North Carolina. David and Steve are active in the industry on several fronts and both serve as generous sources of knowledge and experience to fellow growers.

We are fortunate to be able to track this operation into its fourth year. We recently met with David Goode to discuss this year’s progress at Piedmont Hops.

How is the 2015 season going?
So far so good. We have a crop that is all over the place. Our 2014 expansion is not quite acclimated just yet due to our young plants. Our oldest yard is looking great. Next season we expect a more uniform harvest between both VA yards.

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Tell us about the varieties you are growing. Did you add any new ones this year?
Currently we are growing Cascade, Chinook and Nugget in NC and VA. Last season we added CTZ in Virginia. Midnight Brewery asked us to grow some Mt. Hood. They look good, so we shall see. We grow more Cascade than any variety. We have a few others we are trying out, but not ready to let the cat out the bag quite yet.

It seems like many of our Virginia growers produce at least several varieties to diversify their offerings, but everyone has a favorite. What’s yours?
Chinook by far. The leaves are huge and very dark green. Even the leaf stems smell of hops when we strip them. You get a nice lupulin tease early in the season before the bines even have cones. The cones are the most fragrant of what we grow. Our Chinook have a nice grapefruit aroma. We have one customer in particular that requests as much Chinook as possible. The guys from Stone Brewing loved the aroma from our Chinook.

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Are you trying anything new in 2015?
We completely tore down our 2013 fall trellis and expanded. A grid trellis that uses more spacing and less poles was constructed. The plan is to cut these bines down and take them to Huguenot Hops for processing. Our original yard still lowers for hand picking. We have not changed any marketing techniques. We still make phone calls and send emails to our customers as usual. This spring, we added one variety that we hope will do well and a handful of crowns to trial. Five very healthy wild hops plants we germinated from seed are doing great. We are hoping at least one is a female for cone production. We have two brewers already anxious to brew with them as a test in 2016.

After three years in this business, what is the biggest challenge that you have encountered along the way?
We started in 2012, so this will be our fourth season. Our biggest challenge has been fighting hops downy mildew. However, we have some solid extension agents who have coached us along the way. At one point we wanted to completely dig up a section of yard. Today, that section shows no signs of DM and is fully loaded with cones. We are happy we have such wonderful agents within driving distance of our yard in Virginia.

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Each hop cone, or female flower, prepares for a career in beer by progressing from a burr (top image) to a cone (bottom image).

Interest in the industry has grown steadily in the past few years and as a result we have seen many people join the Old Dominion Hops Cooperative. You have been an active member of this grower group for several years now. What is your outlook on ODHC and the changes you have seen as interest in hops has grown?
I love the folks within the Old Dominion Hops Cooperative. It has changed drastically since my first meeting in an old barn. We now have large meetings with video and conference call-ins, a new logo, and a solid team of folks leading various departments. We are a rapidly growing growers organization. The ODHC represents many states along the east coast. I would encourage anyone growing hops in the Southeast to consider joining the ODHC. Devon Kistler, our chairman, has done a wonderful job expanding the functionality of the cooperative.

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You have a strong online presence, particularly on social media. Tell us more about how you use this kind of outreach.
We use social media all the time. We love sharing our passion with folks. Whether they are craft beer drinkers, home brewers, family, friends, breweries and brewery owners, we love to show everyone what we are up to. Social media is a great way for folks to actually meet the farmer and see the farm without having to visit. I always tell folks, check out our social accounts for more info on who we are. Your social presence ultimately represents who you are. You can find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Vimeo.

Do you have any advice for others who are interested in growing hops?
My advice is to start small and expand small. Visit and volunteer at other hops farms if possible. Learn as much by doing online research. NC State has a lot of good research. Start with quality rhizomes or Virus Free plant material. There are many great vendors out there and many not so great. Know your plant growers. We made some mistakes and bought poor quality material. It came back to bite us. Start with some Cascade if not all Cascade. Not only does it sell, but it grows well and will give you an idea of how this crop grows. You will set yourself up for success in year one. Then expand with others. There is so much advice I could be giving right now. This is one of the most difficult crops to grow. Lastly, please do not buy into the hype of hops being a cash crop. It is not.

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Do you have any successes you would like to share from this season?
Piedmont Hops has grown quite a bit over the years. In 2012 we started with about 70 or 80 plants. We now have over 800. The bulk of the crop is grown in Virginia, but we will be expanding a bit in North Carolina this fall. Between the two farms, we should have over 1,000 crowns. Steve represents the North Carolina growers within the ODHC. I have taken a volunteer spot within the Hops Growers of America. There is a small growers section developed and we will be collecting national data. I have been chosen to represent our region, mainly North Carolina and Virginia.

Your hops are showing up in local beers—would you like to share where some of them might be headed this year?
Our hops will show up locally in the RVA IPA by Hardywood Park Craft Brewery. This will be our third year working with them. Many of our hops are picked and delivered to North Carolina for fresh hopped ales. Our Nugget is heading way down south to Florida. From the several farm tours we have done and hops we have delivered, our customers and future customers love our product. With repeat customers in Virginia and North Carolina over the last three seasons, that is a great testament to the quality of our cones.

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Additional Resources for Readers:

Piedmont Hops website and Facebook page

Old Dominion Hops Cooperative

Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Hops Page

North Carolina Hops Project

Meet Piedmont Hops (Again)

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Last year, we posted our first story about Piedmont Hops, run by business partners David Goode and Steve Brown. Piedmont Hops includes a yard in Chesterfield County and a second yard in North Carolina. Click on the original story here to read about the background of this operation and learn more about how hops are grown.

IMG_3452 (683x1024)The hops industry is growing in Virginia thanks to increased demand for locally-produced goods, an upswing in consumer interest in craft beer, and a boost in the number of brewers establishing themselves in Virginia. David Goode and Steve Brown began growing hops as a hobby, but soon found themselves growing commercially to meet the needs of the industry. Last year, the business consisted of two hundred plants. In 2014 it has been expanded to four hundred and thirty plants, and the combined total for both yards will reach 800-1,000 in 2015. Their hops, once planted, grow perennially out of a crown in the soil, but the bines that produce hops cones grow from new shoots each spring that are trained to grow upward on twine hung from a trellis.

David and Steve collaborate frequently with fellow hop producers, and many prospective growers have toured the operation to learn about the industry. In fact, Piedmont Hops is part of the Old Dominion Hops Cooperative, a grower organization that fosters networking between members and outreach to brewers about Virginia-grown hops. Piedmont Hops has also taken advantage of the opportunity to participate in the Virginia Grown marketing program offered by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer services, whereby growers in the state can have their farms and products listed in a searchable online directory available to consumers.

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Soil in the new ground at the Chesterfield yard will be amended to prepare for additional plants for the 2015 season.

We spent some time visiting with David at Piedmont Hops this summer and discussing the progress they have made since we last wrote about the operation.

IMG_3453 (683x1024)How is the 2014 season going?
2014 could have been better. We made some minor mistakes in VA and have learned a great deal from them. Our NC yard started slow, but decided to wake up early June. We were worried, but it appears we will have a nice yield of hops there.

Did you learn anything from 2013 that motivated you to make changes going into this 2014 season?
We learned the hard way this season that we did not amend our soils properly and we very low on organic matter. Our 2013 fall planting struggled to get going. We planted Columbus in the fall. They did not do well. We planted Zeus, a mirror image variety to Columbus in late spring 2014. It grew much better than Columbus. We will be replacing our Columbus with Zeus.

Any there any new practices you are trying in 2014?
We do soil testing in both yards, a must with this crop. Our fertilizer program in VA can be improved. We may look into fertigation for 2015. We plan to send hops for analysis to VA Tech as soon as we have some more available to harvest. We have worked with our county Extension agents on tissue sampling. What a fun experience it was working with Mike Likins (Agriculture and Natural Resources and Environmental Horticulture agent for Chesterfield County Extension) and seeing the hops under a microscope-very rewarding.

Have you added any new varieties in your yards this year?
We grow in both yards Cascade, Chinook and Nugget. We have added Zeus.

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What is your outlook on your grower organization, Old Dominion Hops Cooperative, and the Virginia industry as a whole?
It is great to see the cooperative gaining members and recognition. We are glad to be part of the organization and what it stands for. We regularly attend meetings and always promote and encourage farmers to join. It’s a great way to learn, gain friendships, and fellowship. The industry is growing with the help of Stan Driver, Jeanine Davis, NC State, Virginia Tech, and Virginia Cooperative Extension.

What has been your biggest challenge so far in this business?
Japanese beetles and spider mites at our VA yard have been our biggest challenges. We took care of the mites organically, but failed to rid the bines of beetles. Having two yards in two states makes for challenging logistics. We get it done, but it’s a lot of wear and tear on the bodies.

Do you have any successes you’d like to share?
We were able to successfully market hops shoots to a restaurant in NC, the Eddy Pub. We continue to propagate strong plant material for our VA yard. Our plant cuttings we take in the spring and plant in late May reach the top of our trellis and are full of cones.

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Hop plants growing from cuttings from the yard

IMG_3429 (683x1024)Marketing Virginia-grown hops is relatively new territory for many growers in this industry. Can you update us on your marketing efforts this year?
We have sold hops to Haw River Farmhouse Ales and Steel String, both North Carolina breweries. Haw River made a hops soda that was a big hit using our fresh NC Cascade. We have the remaining VA hops going to Hardywood Park for their seasonal RVA IPA. Our NC yard will be harvested soon and we are currently working with several NC clients regarding those hops.

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Hops are perennials that grow outdoors and require a tall trellis. However, David had some leftover plants in buckets sitting in an unused hoop house this spring. On a whim, he hung some twine from the roof and let the bines climb, and surprisingly enough, these potted plants grew to the top quickly and will offer excellent cones for harvest time.

Piedmont Hops has an excellent webpage and facebook page. How are you using social media in your business?
We thoroughly enjoy taking photos of hops. We get creative and have fun with it. Social media is great for keeping our beer friends up to date on our yards and where they can find our hops. We use Facebook, twitter and Instagram. We have had a few sales based on our social media posts. Most of our marketing is direct emails to the brewers or stopping by for a pint and a chat about locally grown hops. Social media goes both ways. We love checking out photos of other yards and their hops. Folks love showing off their bines!

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Additional Resources for Readers:
Piedmont Hops Webpage
Piedmont Hops Facebook page
Old Dominion Hops Cooperative
North Carolina Hops Project
Virginia Cooperative Extension – Chesterfield County (find your local office and agents here)
Virginia Grown program and searchable farm and food directory

Meet Huguenot Hops (Again)

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Last year, we posted a story about Huguenot Hops in Chesterfield County, run by business partners Devon Kistler and Kurt Stanfield. Click on the original story here to read about the background of this operation and learn more about how hops are grown.

IMG_1346 (683x1024)Virginia may not top the charts as a hops-producing state, but a rising number of growers have kick-started a movement to increase the availability of locally-grown hops to the burgeoning craft beer industry. Huguenot Hops is a trailblazer in this effort, expanding in size this spring to become one of the largest hop yards in the region. With the increased acreage comes more trellises to build, more bines to train, more weeds to control, and more cones to pick, but Devon and Kurt are committed to their work and passionate about quality.

We visited the operation recently to see the yard expansion and compare the upcoming harvest to what we saw in 2013.

How much has your operation expanded since we first visited you in 2013?
Last year we had 70 plants. This year we have 1200 plants on 1.25 acres. Our plan is to expand to 2600 plants on 3 acres in the next couple of years.

Which varieties of hops are you growing?
Last year was just Cascade. This year we added Nugget and Zeus. We plan to add more varieties in 2015.

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How is the 2014 hops season going so far?
Because of the weather, the second year plants were ready for harvest a month earlier than we expected. However, we were able to sell the hops to Alewerks. Also, we have learned how to combat Japanese Beetles and two-spotted spider mites.

Did you learn anything from 2013 that motivated you to make changes going into this 2014 season?
Yes! We have a completely new trellis system and automated drip irrigation system. Also, there are fewer rows in between poles. One of the more significant improvements was running liquid fertilizer through the drip irrigation … fertigation rocks!

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IMG_1339 (1024x683)Any there any new practices you are trying in 2014?
We did hops testing last year and are continuing that practice this year. Same with soil testing. Although we had soil testing completed by another entity we also had some done at VT. As I said before, fertigation rocks! We still need to better understand quantities to put down.

What is your outlook on your grower organization, Old Dominion Hops Cooperative, and the Virginia industry as a whole?
The Co-Op is gaining a lot of participation from new farmers and combining forces with hop growers in North Carolina. We expect there will be more changes in the Co-Op in the next year as new leadership is elected and groups are created to support specific functions of the Co-Op. I think brewers are a lot more aware of Virginia-grown hops than they were a year ago and they are willing to come out to farms and eventually buy local hops. However, the door is not going to open a lot more for sales of local hops until we have the ability to pelletize and professionally package hops at a location that is central to the majority of hop growers.

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Devon Kistler holds a rhizome he pulled up from one of his plants. Left to their own devices, hops spread through the underground growth of rhizomes, and some industry suppliers collect and sell high-quality rhizomes that can be used to start a new yard or add more plants to an existing one.

What has been your biggest challenge so far in this business?
Time spent weeding 1.25 acres. However, Kurt has a new system with a flamethrower and weed eater that could be our golden ticket.

Do you have any successes you’d like to share?
With some help from David at Piedmont Hops we have clippings from this spring that are currently 10 feet tall and producing burrs. This really helps expand the yard and helps keep costs down. Also, the early sale of 50 pounds to Alewerks is a pretty nice success.

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This burr will mature into a cone, the flower of the female hop plant that is used to flavor beer.


IMG_1328 (1024x683)In addition to working with Alewerks and Hardywood, Devon and Kurt have literally brought their hops to the table, providing early-spring shoots from their plants to The Tobacco Company Restaurant in Richmond for a dish made with espresso-rubbed veal and allagash white ale cream. Furthermore, Huguenot Hops was recently featured in “The Beer Guy” column in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Devon and Kurt will also make an appearance in an upcoming documentary about the brewing industry, From Grain to Growler, alongside several fellow growers.

IMG_1320 (683x1024)Huguenot Hops utilizes the support and resources offered by Virginia Cooperative Extension and their county agricultural agent in Chesterfield, Mike Likins. Although North Carolina State University is the regional leader in hops research, Extension resources for Virginia hops growers are expanding. The soil testing lab at Virginia Tech now has a crop code for hops so that growers can get accurate fertilizer recommendations for their yards, and the university has also initiated a hops testing service that will facilitate hop marketing and inform brewers about the levels of alpha acids and other compounds in their purchased hop cones. Virginia Cooperative Extension’s county agricultural agents work with Kurt, Devon, and other growers around the state with insect and disease identification, pest control recommendations, and crop management recommendations.

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Additional Resource for Readers:
Huguenot Hops Webpage
Huguenot Hops Facebook page
Old Dominion Hops Cooperative
North Carolina Hops Project
The Beer Guy article in the Times-Dispatch about Virginia hops
From Grain to Growler Documentary
Virginia Cooperative Extension – Chesterfield County (find your local office and agents here)

Meet Huguenot Hops.

100_0899 (1024x768)The Midlothian yard is owned and operated by Kurt Stanfield and his business partner Devon Kistler. 2013 was their first year growing hops as a commercial venture, but the results have been good and they have begun to increase the size of the yard and set up new plots for the upcoming season. Kurt and Devon work alongside fellow growers in the state and members of the Old Dominion Hops Cooperative who enjoy swapping ideas, networking with brewers, and helping one another at harvest time.  

100_0903 (1024x768)This year, Huguenot Hops grew the Cascade variety, which appeared to make it through the wet, humid summer unscathed by problems like downy mildew that can sometimes haunt hops in Virginia and North Carolina. Perhaps that is due in part to the yard’s unique trellis design. Rather than training the hops to grow in parallel vertical lines, Kurt and Devon arranged them in an open V-shape and spaced them to allow for plenty of airflow. They train each bine to grow clockwise up the twine towards the top of the trellis. However, they are still perfecting their support system design and have plans to make some adjustments to the cables and poles in the new plots that will be used to grow the Nugget and Zeus varieties next year.

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Kurt and Devon are planning to take soil tests on the existing yard and the new ground so that they can amend the soil pH and nutrient levels accordingly. Like any crop, hops need sufficient levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium to remain productive. The yard is also working on perfecting their weed control system using ground covers like mulch and cloth. In addition to suppressing weeds, covers like mulch help the soil retain its moisture. Moisture control is critical in hops, and during most summers the plants require irrigation to supplement rainfall.

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Hops growers can start yards with rhizomes, cuttings, and field-ready plants from other growers. The hops grow each year out of the crown at the soil level. In order to ensure that only the best bines grow up on the trellis, Kurt and Devon cut the regrowth several times early in the season. This helps remove any shoots that may carry certain diseases and eliminates any possible “bull shoots,” or shoots that are not ultimately productive.

100_0908 - Copy (1024x768)Kurt and Devon hope to harvest one and a half to two pounds of hops per year from each plant that has been growing for two or three years. Because hand-harvest of a sizeable yard requires ladders, lots of time, and a small army of volunteers, they are considering the possibility of turning to a mechanical harvester that strips the cones off the bines. What else does the future hold for Huguenot Hops? Some new practices and improved trellises seem to be in the cards, and if all goes well, plenty of local hops will make their way into Virginia brews in the coming years.

100_0906 (1024x768)Additional Resources for Readers:

North Carolina Hops Project

Huguenot Hops Webpage

Old Dominion Hops Cooperative Webpage

Meet David Goode.

100_0874 (1024x768)He operates Piedmont Hops, LLC in Mosely along with Steve Brown, who runs the other part of the business at a site located in North Carolina.

David and Steve began growing hops for their personal use a few years ago, but the project quickly grew. Today, they supply hops to breweries who strive to include more locally-grown products in their craft beers.

100_0889 (1024x768)Growing hops in central Virginia has its challenges. Most varieties are designed to provide maximum yields under the day lengths, temperatures, and growing conditions of the states in the Pacific Northwest, where most of the hops production in the U.S. occurs. Why are there so few hops growers in Virginia? For one, growers in this area must select varieties that are better suited to Piedmont weather, soils, and growing conditions. Furthermore, the warm, humid summers in Virginia can be particularly conducive to the growth of certain diseases that prey on hops. For these reasons, David and other growers have turned to help from the North Carolina Hops project, an effort run by North Carolina State University faculty and specialists. Research data from this project helps Virginia and North Carolina growers choose varieties and growing practices that suit this region. If the market for local hops grows in Virginia, plant breeders may be able to make more progress towards developing varieties that suit local needs and resist local diseases. 100_0892 (1024x768)

David has enjoyed trying different varieties. This year, he had Cascade, Chinook, and Nugget. Next year, he plans to add a few more varieties and increase the total number of plants in the Virginia and North Carolina yards. His hops grow on bines—not to be confused with vines—that climb up strings supported by wires and cedar posts. New and aspiring hops growers may find that these trellis components are responsible for a large percentage of the input costs for starting a yard. Furthermore, growers need materials like drip tape for irrigation and weed cloth to start a yard. Labor is also a costly input, as it can take an hour or more to harvest one pound of hops by hand. Harvest typically occurs in late summer, although certain varieties differ. During the spring and summer, growers will spend a considerable amount of time working on weed control, training hops to climb the lines, and repairing any broken supports.

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Despite the challenges, hops production has been a worthwhile venture for David. He has had the rewarding experience of watching his hops go from the farm to the consumer. Furthermore, as is true in most business ventures, David has found networking with others to be a valuable use of his time. He has helped other growers with their yards, and in turn, growers have visited his farm to harvest hops and swap ideas. 100_0894 (1024x768)

What is next for Piedmont Hops? David is thinking of ways to address the labor requirements that come with an increase in acreage, and he is looking into some ideas for preventing and controlling any fungal diseases that may show up in the future. His work and the work of his colleagues may help turn hops from an impossible challenge for Virginia growers to a successful venture for those who are willing to learn and adapt. 100_0895 (1024x768)100_0883 (1024x768)Additional Resources for Readers:

North Carolina Hops Project

Piedmont Hops Webpage

Old Dominion Hops Cooperative Webpage