We have officially finished our Hop Harvest here at Hops Direct, Puterbaugh Farms. It was a record setting year for our family farm, enduring 51 straight days of hop harvest, which is roughly 10 days more than what is typical for our farm.
We want to provide clear communication from the perspective of the farmer in regards to our 2016 crop. The optimism we had in early spring for what looked to have all the necessary elements for a stellar and hearty crop began to fade as we progressed into the summer months. All struggles stemmed from uncontrollable and unforeseen factors, outlines for you below.
These are Farm Realities.
The Yakima Valley saw a very warm and early spring, followed by a quick transition into the summer heat. Vines in many yards made it to the trellis tops as much as 1 month ahead of what we typically see. This is where we held our optimism, believing that Mother Nature must be on our side this year.
This was unfortunately a short-lived confidence.
June and July brought 100+ degree days and the nights did not cool down as they generally do here in the Yakima Valley. The most problematic with this heat was the timing: late June - Mid-July. This when cones are still in their delicate growth stages, warm days and cool nights are ideal for steady and even growth. This is where we saw, in some varieties, a noticeable variation in cone size. Where the yards should produce roughly the same size cones throughout, there were large cones and small underdeveloped cones all within the same vine.
Stunted cone growth due to early heat affected overall yields in some varieties, but the quality remains all-throughout.
Picture this: miles of hop yards, hop trellis' thick with cones from top to bottom, a heavenly blanket of green multiplying and ripening by the day...then, clouds move in. This was the lower Yakima Valley's experience late-August for 1 week: a perfect recipe for potential disaster.
Rain is a dangerous element for hop growers and for the ultimate quality of a hop crop. As for physical damages, once the vines are to the trellis tops, thick and heavy with cones, any additional weight caused by rain could collapse the trellis. Rain and humidity can also negatively affect the cones appearance, causing mildew, tinting the vines/cones a yellow-brown color rather than the otherwise vibrant green.
As a grower, this discoloration is a nightmare and disappointing to see, however for brewers, the quality and characteristics of each variety still remains throughout.
Thankfully, we did not suffer a collapsed yard, but we did see discoloration in some varieties as a result of rain and high humidity in late-August.
It is always our priority to grow the highest quality crops, doing our best to overcome whatever elements and unforeseen factors Mother Nature throws our way.
Sorry, Luke Bryan, rain is not always a good thing.
Another result of the early heat and rain combination: many varieties matured at the same time.
Ideally we harvest our varieties in order of maturity, beginning with our low alpha varieties (Northern Brewer and Tettnanger), moving into the next variety that has reached its maturity, and ending with our high alphas such as Columbus.
This year threw many growers, including us, for a loop. Many varieties were maturing all at the same time and as a result, we set the picking order aside, and raced to get everything off the vine as quickly as possible.
THANKFUL & HUMBLED
God is good.
All of these factors will contribute to this years' availability. Please be aware that yields are low in some varieties and prepare to be flexible.
We are currently shipping, pelleting and filling our contracted hops. Please note that any extras, big or small will be available for purchase here on our website on a first come first serve basis.
Thank you for your patience, and for choosing Hops Direct, our family appreciates your business!