On Saturday, August 29th, 2009, the NC Cooperative Extension Service hosted an informative and educational tour of two local hops farms in the Western North Carolina region. Over 100 interested growers, commercial brewers, and home brewers attended the event.
Landfair Farms in Weaverville, NC was the first to host the attendees. Participants traveled from all over North Carolina and as far away as Central Virgina and Tennessee. A majority of the participants were either home brewers with 'hobby' gardens and those with interest in commercial hop yards. We were lucky enough to have commercial brewers attend as well.
Tour Coordinator, Melinda Roberts, a Small Farms agent from Buncombe Country, started the tour with an overview of the days agenda.
Dr. Jeanine Davis followed with an excellent presentation regarding hops as a relatively new and unproven crop in our area and stressed the importance of a communication network to facilitate the flow of ideas and experiences.
Next, Chris Reedy with Eastern Hops Guild, discussed the formation of The Eastern Hops Guild as well as the issues of Processing, Harvesting, Testing and the possibility of a Disease and Pest work shop.
Julie Jensen, owner of Landfair farms, then led the tour into the fields to actually discuss the nuts and bolts of the growing process. Currently, landfair has 1300 crowns in the ground consisting mainly of Cascade, Willamete, Brewers Gold and Chinook. Chinooks seemed to be the most vigorous growing and heavily fruiting variety of all. Landfair has been using organic cultivation methods with their yards for the past two years.
Sue Colluci, NC Extension, Plant Pathologist also answered some questions from the attendees concerning possible disease as well as pest problems. Sue has some experience with Hops and will be a valuable asset for Hop growers.
The Group proceeded to the Second stop on the tour. Van Burnette's Hop'n Blueberry Farm in Black Mountain, NC. The Farm has been in Van's Family for over 100 years He has been awarded the Centennial Farm designation and also a 2009 WNC AgOptions Recipient to cultivate hops. Van's hop yard has over 130 crowns of Centennial, Chinook, Nugget and Cascade.
The Yard is irrigated by a gravity fed drip irrigation system that uses both water flowing through the property as well as rain water catchment.
The day ended with a networking session/after party at Pisgah Brewing located 5 minutes from Hop'n Blueberry. The Brewer gave samples of Endless Summer Ale, India Pale Ale and Belgian Amber. Dave, owner of Pisgah Brewing, stressed his interest in sourcing local hops.
The Eastern Hops Guild would like to thank all the participants involved in the tour. The Guild would also like to recognize the truly unmeasurable contribution of the NC Cooperative Extension Service. Special thanks go to Steve Ducket, Jeanine Davis, Amanda Stone, Erin Bonito, Sue Colluci and Mike Ford. Extra Special thanks go to Tour Coordinator, Melinda Roberts.