Supply and Demand
Patrick Smith surveys his hop field, preparing for the planting season next month.
Smith, in conjunction with many other hop growers in the Yakima Valley, helps supply nearly 80% of the nation's hops.
As the number one supplier, that also means more pressure for the area and individuals like smith to keep up with a growing industry.
"Craft brewers are growing at a tremendous rate, 10-15% a year nationwide," said Smith, "It presents some challenges for hop growers growing it, trying to meet that demand at that rate."
And the numbers don't lie.
According to the Brewers Association, in 2011, just under 2,000 craft breweries were in operation across the country.
As of 2013, there are about 2,500, a 25% increase.
While the number of brewers continue to expand, growers are finding it harder to supply them, especially with limited land to use.
About 60 million pounds of hops are harvested from the Yakima Valley alone.
And only about 1% of those are used at local breweries around the area.
But since more and more breweries are popping up across the country, growers are looking at other ways to support that trend.
"We're having to look at new locations to grow hops, maybe outside the Yakima Valley or maybe in the outside reaches of the valley," said Smith.
If breweries continue to expand at the current rate, those ideas could become a reality.
After all, farming is just like any other business.
"The demand is going to be there," said Smith, "And where there's demand, somebody is going to find a way to supply it."