Planning the hop field

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ianmurchison

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I wanted to share with everyone my plans for our hop field. We have a 19ac property and I think in the end we will be able to squeeze about 12ac with actual hops.

Doing things pretty small the first year so that we can better understand what kind of things to expect with regards to water, soil conditions, growth, pests, etc.
The plan is to do 3 inner rows of the trellis blocks so that was can easily add on to the block in year 2.
These 3 rows will be about 220 plants total. This will be broken up with 160 Cascade and 60 Galena, we'll be double planting rhizomes so about 440 plants total being planted.
We will also have a small 16 plant block of Centennial for fun.

We should be getting delivery of the first posts early spring. Planning to set them at 19-20' above ground.
Next is planning how to get up to that height! Likely going to pickup a trailer and build some scaffolding on it. Towed with a lawn tractor for now.

At the end of Year 1, the plan is to install a full 2-3ac of trellis system.
1ac of Cascade, 1ac of Galena and potentially 1ac of Centennial or something else through some material agreements we're looking at.
This sort of hinges on how the year 1 stuff goes. I need to better understand how I can manage those 3ac without any real onsite facilities. We currently don't live on the property and while there is a building onsite, it doesn't have any power source.

We're also working on a scalable drying system that'll help up grow. Aiming to have a system packed with sensors to help automate and control as much as we can.


Anyways, here's glimpse and some pipe dream renderings.
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B-Hoppy

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If you're serious about this project I would suggest doing a business plan first and talking to some established growers in your region. There's a specialty crops program at a university somewhere in Ontario that just recently did a zoom program a week or so ago and I would imagine that would be a good resource before you jump into a serious project like this, especially with hops being they have so many quirks on the production end as opposed to a small grain like barley or something else. Just me though.
 

Senormac

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You can't inhabit that black building in the center of your diagrams ? That is where you should be living IMO. Get some electrics out there. What a cool piece of property !!
 
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ianmurchison

ianmurchison

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You can't inhabit that black building in the center of your diagrams ? That is where you should be living IMO. Get some electrics out there. What a cool piece of property !!
That’s the plan! We just want to get a couple acres started and more mature before we start building the house. It’s only 30min from our current home so it’s not too bad.
 
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ianmurchison

ianmurchison

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A few updates as we sit in the depths of winter here and hitting -30C.

Our first 24 poles have arrived at the field. Next up over the winter is going to be to debark the lower 5-6ft and tar them over.
We've got some seed propagation happening as well, they're sitting dormant in our fridge but should be good to go in about a months time.
Also we've picked up a couple of these racks which we're planning on using to prototype and test (on a small scale) what our vision for a scalable last system will be.

IMG_9345.JPGIMG_9356.JPGIMG_9357.JPGIMG_9358.JPG
 

kmarkstevens

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Really cool.

So you're going to grow some hops from the seeds? I know theoretically that's the way it's traditionally done, but always thought typically the grow comes from rhizomes.
 
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ianmurchison

ianmurchison

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Really cool.

So you're going to grow some hops from the seeds? I know theoretically that's the way it's traditionally done, but always thought typically the grow comes from rhizomes.
The seed propagation is just for experimentation on the side actually. We have 500 rhizomes ordered for spring planting ??
 
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ianmurchison

ianmurchison

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Well I'll keep updating here as things happen. Year 1 is relatively small so we can verify a few things both logistically and from a crop management perspective. We've ordered 500 rhizomes, so we should be planting close to 250 hills.
 

ajm163

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Done a ton of work with small hop growers in the past. I ran a business that processed and pelletized hops for many growers in colorado. The people who had the most success would plant about 80% of their yard with staple hops like cascade and then experiment with different types in the other 20%. Leave some room to experiment hops grow like crazy but react very different in different climates. for example Noble hops for the most part grow like crap here in colorado many people here have tried with very little success. One farm i worked with experimented with some Chinese hops that did very well. its all about finding the strains that grow (and more importantly produce) well for your unique climate and soil.

if there are some other small growers in your area i would advise talking with them. What has grown well for them and what hasn't? try and plant a few things (a handful of plants) that they haven't tried, not only as an experiment but will also give you something unique in the local hop market.

as a small hop producer try and line up as many brewers as you can to do a wet hop beer right around harvest time. that will make you the most money. As at least around here wet hops sell for about $10/lb (just slightly less than dry hops later in the year) which will make you the most money since they are like 90% water by weight fresh.

spent about 5 years working with small hop growers. happy to help and feel free to reach out
 

Sylvain

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One farm i worked with experimented with some Chinese hops that did very well. its all about finding the strains that grow (and more importantly produce) well for your unique climate and soil.

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Chinese hops ???
 
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ajm163

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My fault its actually Japanese
Kirin II - Field Grade

Grew like crazy. its first year it was easily bigger than his second year cascades. don't know if he ever told me how much it yielded though
 

ajm163

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one more really important thing when planning a larger (anything over an acer) is the maturity of your strains. if you dont have a wolf picker or similar picking is a very labor intensive job and you have about a 2 week window to pick and dry. if you can stager you strains to have some early, some mid and some late maturing they wont all be ready at the same time and can take some of the pressure off.

picking by hand may not sound hard but trust me it is at this scale. one of the farms that i used to work with said to me (only 1/2 joking) his goal every year is to make 20 new friends to help harvest because no one was stupid enough to help him twice
 
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ianmurchison

ianmurchison

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@ajm163 thanks for the feedback!

We've been busy putting in the first poles of the season. We're only doing 5 straight runs for this first springs about 26 poles, single cable single coir for the first year hops. The remaining 80+ poles with proper angle/wire structure should go in this fall. Next up are cables, anchors and irrigation lines this weekend.
 

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