The Lure of Hops for Carolina Farmers
For many years we’ve been led to believe that hops can only be grown in one region of the US, and North Carolina ain’t it:
“There is a reason why our industry is predominantly in the Pacific Northwest, it is a very good location for growing hops. They get very high yields. But we can grow hops here in NC, in fact we can grow hops even further south. But we have challenges, the day lengths is a little to short, and we are hot and humid and wet which will bring disease challenges.”
Jeanine Davis, Associate Professor & Extension Specialist in Horticultural Science at NC State explains the goal is not to supply the beer industry’s heavy hitters, but the blossoming craft-brew industry in the state:
“There are now enough of the craft breweries that they are all looking for their own marketing angle. So for them to use local grown hops and be able to use seasonal brews and maybe some based around specific farms is very attractive. The volume that they need for a seasonal brew is something that we can supply.”
As far as land commitment to the project, Davis has this recommendation:
“To make a good effort, someone needs to put in about a quarter of an acre into a hop yard, about 200 plants, it will be enough of an investment to give you a good idea what you are getting into.”
Right now, much of the plant management is by hand says Davis, and much like grapes, it can take about three years to see a return on investment.
On Saturday the 16th of March, Davis is hosting a seminar for producers interested in hops:
“I was a little concerned about the exploding number of people who said they were going to put in hops this spring. We want people to really be informed before they get into it. Besides sharing our experience here at NC state growing ten varieties, we will bring in three hop growers who have been growing for a while as well as a brewery.”
Davis says there’s producers in the Piedmont that are doing well with hops, its not limited to the foothills and the mountain regions.
The workshop is Saturday, march 16th at the Mountain Horticultural Research & Extension Center in Mills River, North Carolina. For more information visit our calendar