What is the history of hop growing in Vermont?

In much of the 1800s, hops were one of Vermont's largest agricultural crops. The state of Vermont was the second largest producer of hops in the U.S. after New York. According to the agricultural census of 1860, Vermont's biggest hop production year, the state produced 638,657 pounds of hops. To put that in perspective, it would take 372 acres in production at today's yields to produce that quantity of hops. Hop growers were forced to wind down their operations during prohibition, and the industry re-established itself in the Pacific Northwest. We are excited to be a part of the re-emergence of Vermont's hop industry! You can find these facts and much more information on the history of our state's hops and beer industry in Vermont Beer: History of a Brewing Revolution by Kurt Staudter and Adam Krakowski.

 

Can you quantify demand for hops in Vermont?

It's an exciting time for hops on a national level. Craft beer production in the U.S. has more than tripled since 2007, and in that same time period, craft brewers increased their average use of hops in each barrel of beer by 72%! Speaking of people who like hops, Vermont is home to more brewers (and barrels of beer) per capita than any other state. Vermont brewers currently use enough hops to support more than 300 acres of hop production, yet our state only has about 25 acres currently in production. It's time to grow some more hops! For more info on Vermont's beer industry, check out these Brewer's Association statistics.

 

How many acres of hops are currently grown in Vermont?

The Hop Growers of America reported 25 acres of hops in Vermont in 2016.

 

Do you pelletize your hops?

Yes! Mt. Philo hops will be a full-service stop for hops, meaning that we grow, harvest, and pelletize in-house. Why does this matter? Post harvest processing is as important to hop quality as the whole growing season combined. Our vertically integrated business model will ensure that hops are harvested, dried, and pelletized to provide quality that brewers are used to combined with the supply and communication benefits of being located down the road from our customers.

 

What are your plans following the 8/28 select board meeting addressing neighbors on East Thompson’s Point Road?

We listened carefully and with open minds to our neighbors' concerns at the Town meeting. In particular, we really took to heart their expressed emotion and sensitivity surrounding the very complex subjects of pesticide use and pesticide drift. It was great that some of the State's top experts on both hop farming and pesticides could contribute to the discussion so we could all have a shared fact base. Having heard our neighbors’ concerns, we will review our plans for our farm and will do our best to address their concerns surrounding safety as we continue to develop our plans for the property. We have stated we want to be responsible neighbors and we will deliver on that promise.

 

Do you have the required regulatory approvals for building hop trellis?

We have all the regulatory approvals required. We are continuing to work with various experts and governing bodies to ensure our plans not only meet the required regulations but our high standards for responsible farming.

 

Are the poles in the hop trellis like telephone poles?

Hop poles are almost half the height and half the width of a telephone pole. Our poles are 18’ tall and 5-7” in diameter. Anchor poles on the outside are also 18’, but have thicker bases.

 

Did you apply for a variance for your hoop house location?

We have applied to the Agency of Agriculture for a variance. The application is in process, and we will make the appropriate actions promptly when we hear from them. If the variance is denied, the hoop house will be moved immediately in compliance with the rules. If it is granted, the hoop house will stay temporarily while we plan and build our harvest barn.

 

Do you spray the hops?

Mt. Philo Hops will be a nationwide leader in low-spray hop farming practices utilizing Integrated Pest Management (IPM). IPM is a set of tools that we use to manage pests and keep our plants healthy. Those tools include encouraging beneficial insects, choosing disease-tolerant hop varieties, plant spacing that promotes good airflow, maintaining proper soil moisture, crowning, weeding, and disease forecasting based on weather models. Pesticides, however, are an important failsafe in certain conditions. When we do spray, we use products that we have researched thoroughly for their safety and effectiveness. We use an orchard sprayer, also known as an air-blast sprayer, which is the method used in all commercial orchards and vineyards in the state. We will not be aerial spraying.

 

Should neighbors be concerned about their wells running dry?

We appreciate that many of the wells in the area are low producing and that people are concerned about whether our irrigation water needs and farming operations will impact their water availability or quality. In selecting the site for our farm, we gave great consideration to the water we would need, wanting to ensure that the property could fulfill our water needs. Our first big project on the property was to greatly improve drainage in each field, and to build two 600,000 gallon ponds which collect all water that drains from each field. We have retained hydrogeological engineering firm Waite-Heindel Environmental Management to advise us on a number of issues including; water use for irrigation, water use for employees and our intended harvesting barn, and sources of water, including; rainfall, catchment area supporting our ditches and ponds, the spring in our western field, ditches feeding our two ponds and pond capacity.

 

What bodies are you regulated by and who can I contact to get more information?

Elise Annes
Vice President for Community Relations
Vermont Land Trust
802-262-1206
Reference: lead co-signor of Mt. Philo Hops conservation easement

 

Cary Giguere
Pesticide Section Chief
Agency of Agriculture
802-828-6531
Cary.giguere@vermont.gov
Reference: pesticide use safety, regulations and compliance.

 

Stephanie Smith
Land Use Chief
Agency of Agriculture
802-828-1732
Stephanie.Smith@vermont.gov
Reference: land use/zoning regulations and compliance.

 

Joe Rheaume
Town of Charlotte Zoning Administrator
802-425-3071x207
Jrheaume@townofcharlotte.com
Reference: matters related to Town of Charlotte approval requirements

 

Danny Peet
Soil Conservationist
Natural Resources Conservation Service
Danny.Peet@vt.usda.gov
802-288-8155 x202
Reference: compliance with NRCS programs

 

Laura Lapierre
Program Manager
Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation
Watershed Management Division - Wetlands Program
802-490-6177
Reference: compliance with DEC and wetlands regulations

 

Eric Davis
River Ecologist
Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation
Watershed Management Division - Wetlands Program
802-490-6180
eric.davis@vermont.gov
Reference: compliance with regulations on surface water withdrawal

 

Angela C. Repella
Biologist
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
802-872-2893
Angela.C.Repella@usace.army.mil
Reference: compliance with regulations on use of wetlands

 

What experts are you working with to ensure best hop growing practices?

Heather Darby
UVM Extension Agronomist
Reference: Extension agronomist and leading expert on hops in Vermont.

 

Steve Miller
Senior Resource Educator
Cornell Cooperative Extension
Reference: Extension educator and leading expert on hops in New York state.

 

David Gent
Research Plant Pathologist
United States Department of Agriculture
Agriculture Research Service
Reference: leading expert in hop plant pathology and IPM in the U.S.

 

Contacts can be provided upon request.

What experts are you working with to ensure best environmental practices?

Craig Heindel
Senior Hydrogeologist
Waite-Heindel Environmental Engineering
Reference: senior hydrogeologist and advisor with respect to matters of water collection and impact on neighborhood availability and quality.

 

Marty Illick
Lewis Creek Association
Reference: executive director of the Lewis Creek Association, a water conservation non-profit. She has offered to work with us on improving stormwater capacity and water quality on our farm.

 

Matt Wood
Feed, Fertilizer, and Pesticide Field Staff Supervisor
Vermont Agency of Agriculture
Reference: best practices for fertilizer and pesticide application.

 

Carl Cole
Carl Cole Realty
Reference: farmland realtor and advisor on our land purchase and development.

 

Contacts can be provided upon request.