08 Sep Hops Becoming a Hot Crop Locally
Posted Sep. 7, 2015 at 3:00 PM
Matt McFarland married into a fifth generation farming family and, in addition to the thousand acres of corn on the family farm, has found a niche crop on the cusp of expansion — hops.
A key ingredient in the brewing of beer, the hops grown at ChurchKey Farms just outside of Deerfield are being sold locally to the Tecumseh Brewing Co. and to other craft brewers in Michigan and northern Ohio.
A recent “Day at ChurchKey Farms” planned by McFarland and by John and Erika Aylward from The Boulevard Market in Tecumseh drew about 50 visitors to view the hops field, taste some of the creations from The Boulevard Market and sample some of the varieties of local craft beers.
Erika Aylward spread the word through her customers and found a great deal of interest.
“People really are interested in seeing agriculture being put into something they adore,” she said. “We thought it was great that it was all coming together — the brewing and the culture in Michigan and to have local hops used. What else could you possibly want?”
McFarland’s crew recently harvested 12 acres of the fragrant crop and he is planning to expand production.
“This year, we have four acres of nugget hops and smaller trial plots of cascade and chinook, and are adding another 12 acres nearby,” McFarland said. “The tiling equipment is installing the drain tiles and we will install the poles when the harvest is done.”
The harvest took place in late August, and ChurchKey is now preparing for the next growing season. McFarland, who brews beer of his own, said he studied hops farming before he started planting.
“I started the hops thing on my own just because I have an interest in the craft brewing industry and in farming and wanted to try to develop a niche,” he said. “My fear is that it is trendy and a lot of people are getting into it, so we have to try and distinguish and set ourselves apart.”
Brian Tennis, director of sales and marketing for the Michigan Hop Alliance, a farmer owned alliance, said the number of hops growers in Michigan is fairly small, but has been growing dramatically thanks to the craft brewing craze in Michigan.
“Most of them are fairly small, only an acre or two. We’ve got about 400 acres (in Michigan) this year and that is expected to double by next year,” Tennis said. “That would make Michigan the fourth largest hops growing state in the nation and top 10 in the world.”
McFarland and Tennis agreed the craft beer industry in Michigan is in a growth spurt and many microbrewers like the idea of buying locally.
See original article here.