Monday, April 13, 2015
Alternative Styles of Hop Yards
The land is on a hillside, part of a county-owned farm there. Brad says they are growing Cascade, Chinook, Nugget, and Mt. Hood, although there may be one more variety in the mix. Most of the production will go to brewing club members.
When we were first conceptualizing Hawksbill Hop Yards, we considered this traditional arrangement of the plants. You can get pretty good density with this approach, which would allow you to get to commercial production levels. However, once we started having a look at the scale we were going for - a full acre with expansion to a second acre, this arrangement didn't work anymore, since it would make laying the irrigation system difficult, and operating machines in there would be a challenge.
Our system, which I'll be showing off soon - we're digging holes for the poles right now- is a matrix, with poles every four rows. The system is stabilized through the combination of lengthwise and crosswise cables that are all anchored on the exterior.
In any of these arrangements, despite the challenges each presents, a hops farmer can get densities of up to 1,000 plants per acre. We're planting Hawksbill Hop Yards on a less dense approach, since we're in a learning stage and don't want to add stress to the plants.
I could be convinced to put in a couple of central pole set-ups, but they would be for non-production plants. We could use them for rhizome cultivation, educational outreach, or ceremonially. I like the looks of it, so I'll keep it in mind.