But we have a lot more to learn about growing hops successfully and what it takes to make it profitable. To that end, Scott King and I were recently awarded a grant from the USDA Specialty Crops Block Grant program, administered through the NC Dept. of Agriculture & Consumer Services, to establish an experimental hop yard on one of the research stations in western NC and to continue working with our four cooperating hop farmers in the region. Soon we will be meeting with all our cooperators to "debrief" about the 2010 season and plan for the coming year.
Rob will keep the project website updated. In addition Sue Colucci has a blog page devoted to NC hops WNC Veggies Hops Page that is chock full of information and links to resources. I also post on the hops happenings fairly regularly on this blog.
If you are considering growing hops commercially, I urge you to read all the information on the above noted blogs and websites and to visit with folks growing them now. Establishing a commercial hop yard is not easy and can be quite costly. There is a lot we don't know about growing and processing hops in the Southeast, so you will be one of the pioneers if you choose to plant them. The craft breweries have been very supportive of the local growers' efforts and appear willing to buy what is grown in the area, but there has not been enough production yet for any of us to know what quality or quantity can be produced and at what price. So I urge caution. If on the other hand, you want to grow hops for your own home brewing pleasure, there are many people doing that throughout the region quite successfully. Just Google "growing hops at home" and you'll find dozens of great articles and blogs with good pictures to assist you.