Harvest Season: A "Hop," Skip And A Jump Away
For four generations, Mike Smith's family has farmed hops in the Yakima Valley.
Today he walks through one of his hop fields, impressed with this year's product -- despite a growing season that consisted of heavy rainfall, cold nights, and scorching temperatures.
"As long as we keep them wet and we keep them clean, that hot weather doesn't really seem to have too much of a negative impact," said Smith, "At this point, it's as good a looking crop as I can remember in some time."
Starting next week, Smith and many growers in the Yakima Valley will begin harvesting their hops.
With the valley contributing about 75% of the nation's total hop crop, growers often feel the pressure of supply and demand.
"We'll have a tremendous amount of visitors from the brewing industry, especially with the explosion in the craft brewing industry," said Smith, "We expect hundreds of brewers through the valley over the next three to four weeks."
Smith says his Cascade crop is expected to yield up to 2,100 pounds to the acre; that makes for a very busy season for those in the field, and on the brewing side.
"For us here, we're going to be gearing up to be doing some special things, the one time of year we can be bringing in fresh hops to feature in our beers," said Smith's daughter, and Bale Breaker Brewery President, Meghann Quinn, "Being that we're so close to the fields, we're going to definitely do some fun things to showcase what we do here in the valley."
For Mike Smith, it's business that's become family tradition.
"We've been at it for four generations, and my hope is that we see it for five or six generations at least," said Smith.
The Bale Breaker Brewery near Moxee will be hosting a celebration to mark the beginning of hop harvest season tomorrow and Saturday.
The public is welcome to attend.