Is beer in your farming future?

Tony Nye - OSU Extension

One of the fasting growing agricultural enterprises in Ohio has to do with beer. The enterprise, of course, is hops production. I am amazed at how much interest there is. As I think many of you know, hops is a main ingredient beer manufacturers use to provide bitterness to balance the sweetness of malt sugars in their product.

The interest has been driven by the popularity of craft brewers in Ohio. I have heard Brad Bergefurd, a horticulturist with the Ohio State University South Centers at Piketon say many times, that just 10 years ago there were barely two handfuls of Ohio breweries. Today there are at least 150 licensed breweries in Ohio.

According to Bergefurd, to meet this growing demand, an estimated 6,000 acres of hops are required by Ohio craft brewers at current use rates. As of 2015, Ohio only had an estimated 200 acres of hops planted.

As more Ohio-based craft brewers seek to procure hops grown locally, interest in growing these crops continues to rise among both established and potential hops growers statewide, especially since the income potential for hops growers is significant thanks to industry demand.

To help new growers learn how to get started growing both hops and malting barley in Ohio, a two-day Ohio Hops and Malting Barley Conference and Trade Show will be held Feb. 24-25 at Fisher Auditorium, 1680 Madison Ave., in Wooster on the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) campus.

The workshop will feature detailed information on the latest in hops and malting barley production (another crop interest), including mechanical harvesting, processing, malting and pelletizing, Bergefurd said.

The conference is for both beginning and advanced hops and malting barley growers and anyone interested in growing these crops to meet the increasing demand for a rapidly expanding industry, he said.

The event will feature horticulture experts with Ohio State University Extension, OARDC and OSU South Centers as well as other agricultural industry professionals. OSU Extension and OARDC are the outreach and research arms, respectively, of Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences. The OSU South Centers is also a part of the college.

Bergefurd and Mary Gardiner, an Ohio State entomologist, will host the workshop. Topics will include:

• Planning to Make Your Hop Farm Profitable.

• How Brewers Select their Hops.

• Managing Diseases in the Hops Yard.

• Collaborative Marketing-Ohio Hops Guild.

• Hops Fertility Management Using Petiole Analysis and Fertigation.

• Greenhouse to field, Giving Hops a Jumpstart.

• Enhancing Beneficial Insects in Your Hop Yard.

• Identifying and Managing Hops Pests.

• Using Cover Crops as an Integrated Pest Management Tool in Hops.

• Weed and Herbicide Management.

• Soil Selection, Preparation, and Fertility.

• Drying, Cleaning, and Packaging Barley for the Malting Market.

• Malting Barley Diseases and Management Strategies.

• Malt Facilities and Markets in Ohio.

Conference participants will also be able to meet some of Ohio’s best hops growers and learn how to take advantage of hops mechanical harvesters, processing and pelletizing operations that have been formed and are available for use by Ohio hops growers, Bergefurd said.

Now is a good time for growers in Ohio to learn research-based production guidelines for business planning, site selection, pest management, irrigation, variety selection, fertilization and marketing, from OSU Extension researchers, including Bergefurd and Gardiner.

Thanks to a U.S. Department of Agriculture/Ohio Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant, OSU Extension researchers, including Bergefurd and Gardiner have developed a hops development program focused on profitable production and marketing.

Bergefurd notes that over 100 licensed Ohio beer manufacturers and thousands of home brewers send an estimated $30 million in hops purchases and related jobs out of Ohio by purchasing the flowers of the hop plant, called hop cones or hops, from out of state. The research that Bergefurd and others are doing is designed to increase Ohio hops production and keep some of that income in Ohio.”

Registration for the conference is $175 for both days or $100 for one day. Registration includes a spiral-bound booklet, handouts, a flash drive with conference presentations, snacks and beverages. The Feb. 24 banquet is an additional cost of $50 per person. The deadline to register for the conference is Feb. 5.

For more information on the two-day Ohio Hops and the Ohio Craft Brewers Conference, contact Bergefurd at 740-289-2071, ext. 136 or, or Charissa Gardner at 740-289-2071, ext. 132.

Tony Nye is the state coordinator for Small Farm Programs and an OSU Extension educator, agriculture and natural resources, for Clinton County and the Miami Valley EERA.

Tony Nye

OSU Extension