Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Hops Season Has Begun!

Saturday was a beautiful day! The weather was perfect for some work on the farm. I decided to volunteer at a hops farm in Haywood County. Winding River Hops is run by Scott Grahl and Stephanie Willis, a pair of energetic and friendly growers who began growing hops last year. The pair received a WNC AgOptions grant in 2009 to get started.

When I arrived at the hops yard, I was pleased. The hops plants looked great and the site was virtually, weed free! Scott and Stephanie grow Sterling, Nugget and Glacier hops.

Hops bines at Winding River Hops. Beautiful, lush, green spring growth.

Our first task was to cut string (sisal fiber twine that is biodegradable) into long segments. We did this by winding the string around two posts that were set apart by the correct number of feet. Once it was wound, it was cut and then carried to the rows.

Stephanie and Scott carrying the strings to the hops yard.

The strings were then laid next to the rows in preparation for tying.

Sisal fiber twine used to tie hops to the trellis system.

The next step was to tie the strings to the top wire of the trellis system. This requires carrying the strings up a ladder and tying a the string in a slipknot onto the top wire of the trelis. The ladder is a special design, crafted by a man in California specifically for hops production.

Special hops ladder used to string and harvest hops. Not the Model ID: 1718HOP

Stephanie had been doing the climbing until I arrived, but I decided to give it a go!

Sue atop the hops ladder tying the string to the top wire of the trellis.

Once the strings are tied on, the rest of the crew slid them down the top wire, secured the knot onto the top wire by pulling the string, and then tied the string around the individual hops plant.

Lane and Scott tying the strings around each hops plant.

Getting the hops tied is very important in the training of the plants. Hops require a wire to climb up - they may grow a foot per day!

Hops are a bine, a plant that has spikes and grows in a helical fashion around a wire (unlike vines, which have tendrils). This is one of the downfalls to working with hops - they are very spiny! By the end of the afternoon, my arms were all scratched up and itchy. Next time I will definitely wear long sleeves!

Look how nice a finished row looks!

Finished hops row, all strung up!

I had a great time volunteering at Winding River Hops Farm on this beautiful Saturday! Scott and Stephanie are delightful and fun to work with! We had a great time working and chatting with one another. My reward for volunteering was, of course, a refreshing, local brew.

French Broad Brewing Company's Gateway Kolsch. The perfect finale to a great Saturday volunteering at the hops yard!

I look forward to working more with Scott and Stephanie!

Here are some interesting sites/blogs on hops production.
Eastern Hops Guild
Hop'n Blueberry Farm News
Ocean State Hops
Growing Hops Yourself

To read previous posts on hops on WNC Vegetable and Small Fruits News, go here.

1 comment:

Jane said...

Wonderful article. Nice, neat field. You should have a good crop for 2010.