The potential for profitable hops production is being studied in Vermont. Are you interested in growing a unique crop with new distribution and marketing channels? Background Information Hops are not currently grown in Vermont at a commercial scale. It does look like Vermont's climate is conducive to hops production though, and Rutland County has been identified as a good location to trial the crop (based on our climate within the state, soils and depth to bedrock). Hops need loamy, well drained soil with at least 3-4' to bedrock. This is because the hops trellising system is quite tall and needs to be anchored deep in the ground.
Quite a bit of study has gone into determining whether growing hops in Vermont can be both profitable for the grower and the processor, while maintaining a competitive price point for the end customer. Things are looking promising, with a potential net average income (after direct operating expenses) of $4,640/acre. Much of the business analysis has been done by Rosalie Wilson, who is working with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture.
Mike Roffman, is another partner in this project. Mike is planning to open a hops processing facility to service the New England market called Atlantic Hops. Processing is a key component in the marketability of hops produced here in Vermont, as the demand for hops is almost entirely for a dried, pelletized product.
Mike is interested in setting up a "charter grower program" where he will work closely with growers, helping source the materials for the hop yard, help with setting up the hop yard, and providing technical expertise for any questions the farmer has while embarking on this journey, and then ongoing as needed to help ensure the success of each farmer in their hops undertaking.
In order to participate in the charter grower program each farm would be required to commit to grow at least an acre of hops and that they will ship at a minimum their first four years of harvest to Mike. Mike will then process them, and develop a VT or New England Hops brand that he will sell to brewers, and return 60% of the proceeds to the farmer (40% will cover processing expense and his own need to make a profit), which at the price points we've identified would be expected to average a net of $9/lb back to the farmer which would generate a net positive income to the farmer of $4,640/acre- so a win, win, win for all involved - a price point brewers can stomach ($15/lb) and that enables a processor to set up shop and make a living, and enable a farmer to get involved and make a profit.
Quick note that the first year expect very little harvest, 60% in year two and in year 3 the plants would be up to 100% production.
The investment farms would need to plan for is ~$10,000/acre for hopyard set up, and then in order to be efficient enough to get the $4,640 in net income, the farms would need an additional capital investment of $15,000 to cover a mechanical picker, a sorting set up and an oast (hops dryer)- those costs could be extended over up to three acres, so the more acreage put into production, the quicker the return on investment for those pieces of equipment.
So, are you interested in learning more? Mike will be hosting a Hops Growing Intensive (Click here for details) on Sat-Sun 10/9 and 10 in Cooperstown, NY. Anyone who is seriously interested learning more about hops production, especially in the charter growing program describe above, is strongly encouraged to attend.
If there is strong interest among a number of growers in our area, Mike is willing to come up and meet with folks to discuss the project further and answer questions.
A final report on the research Rosalie Wilson has done will be available by the end of the month. I'll make sure to distribute to anyone interested once it's released.
We are really interested in hearing your thoughts as growers on this opportunity. Please send me an email or comment on this post with your questions and comments.