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Growing Hops is a LOT of Work- Even in the Winter: a note fromHopHeadBon

Posted by on February 22, 2013

IMG_1158Hello out there, in internet land!  Jeff and I get a lot of questions like:

What do you guys do in the winter?

When do you start to get busy?

and  “What are you doing on the farm right now”

Well, these are all good questions I guess.  Jeff gets a little annoyed because he forgets that most people have no idea the scope of what we do or how we do it.  I on the other hand, I don’t mind so much, but usually I am quite tired and am kind of sick of hearing myself talk by that point.

So here is a little look on the inside of our operation…

A lot of office work!  Argh!!!

I keep the books and work with our wonderful accountant.  I sit at my desk and answer the phone. We get a lot of calls for advice from future growers and questions about the hop supply from brewers.  We have shirts for sale on our web site and until 2 weeks ago, we had a small supply of hops for home brewers left to be sent out.  I compile all the orders and send them out.  I am working on refining our tracking and labeling system so all hops that come through our processing center are accounted for.  I am gathering a great group for working on the the farm this season.  A lot of interviews and follow up have been necessary.  Boy this is exciting stuff, isn’t it?

A rainbow of HHF shirts!

A rainbow of HHF shirts!

Building plans all laid out.

Building plans all laid out.

My View during the day



We have a lot of meetings!

This year,we will be putting in a state of the art drying system (oast) that can handle thousands of pounds of hops!  Jeff and Nunzino have Skype meetings at crazy hours to coordinate the building of this system. (Hopefully Jeff will write about this fabulous project soon.) These meetings consist of German engineers and US builders and our general contractor from Morton.  Sometimes a mason and the electrician and who ever else is needed to be in the loop.  Click here to see a video tour of the model of our new building.


Skype meetings with builder and  German engineers.

Skype meetings with builder and German engineers.

Meanwhile in the hop yard…..

While the plants lay sleeping and Jeff and I are working away in the office, Mark and his crew are putting in more trellising for more hop plants!  This is not easy work!  Mark searched out every supplier to get the best prices on the poles, wire, earth anchors etc.  He put together a complete plan of how the yard layout should be, including the amount of time it would take to put it in.  If that was not enough work, Mark and crew had to begin the install, while battling every kind of weather Mother Nature could throw at them!  Rain, snow, sleet, ice, wind and many combinations of the 5.    Those guys are pretty amazing and tough!


Winter Fog


Ice and mud!


Blustery and cold!

Blustery and cold!

Running  wires in the elements

Running wires in the elements

No matter the weather...

No matter the weather…








Speaking of expanding the hop yard… We have plants being started in Zeeland, Michigan.

Every few weeks I go to visit the babies.  To us, as a farm, this essential to make sure we start off with great health

Visiting Great Lakes Hops

Visiting Great Lakes Hops

plants.  To me personally, I enjoy walking through the greenhouses, talking to the growers and soaking it all up.  I usually do some scouting for pests and take a few leaf samples along the way.  A lot of great work and research is being done at Great Lakes Hops by Brian and Lynn.  Amee keeps things on track schedule wise.  At Sandy Ridge the mother plants are just waking up.  Jon works on a little different schedule.  Soon I will see him too.  My visits to see our baby hops growing bring spring a little closer.

Continuing education…. Connecting the people and the dots….

We are always learning and adjusting.  This is so important to our industry as a whole.  Reading articles, connecting with universities and individuals that are involved in growing our hop industry in Michigan takes a lot of time and effort.   Like I said, Lynn Kemme at Great Lakes Hops is making leaps and bounds in virus indexing and cleaning up our plant stock for growers.  He gathers info and does experiments on different chemicals that can be used on hops to control disease.  I love to talk to Lynn about these things and help in whatever way I can to confirm and add to his research.  This is so valuable to us as growers and will be one of the great benefits of having an organized Michigan Hop group.  Jeff and i have been pushing this for a long time now.  This winter, things are beginning to come together thanks to Valerie Byrnes of  the Barry County Economic Alliance and Rick Chapla of the Right Place.  They have helped organize and have sponsored meetings to get things rolling.  Look for more on this later…

Drinking beer…

We must take time to celebrate the industry that is the reason for ours!

Nunzino,when he is not in the office in Chicago can be spotted during the brewing of many special release beers.  The most recent is the collaboration beer at Revolution Brewing.  Here is what Nunz had to say about it on Facebook, “Something very special happened at Revolution Brewery the other day. A four state brewing collaboration for one united beer to march onto Washington DC and arrive at the Craft Brewers Conference. I don’t think I have to mention which collaborating state the hops came from, do I? Yes, Michigan! HHF is honored to be included in this incredible interstate venture with Revolution, Half Acre, Three Floyds & one of D.C.’s newest breweries, Church Key.”.  This is our reward at the end of the day.

Tomorrow is the Michigan Winter Beer Festival put on by the Michigan Brewers Guild.  Jeff and i will be there as always.  I have to say, we will not be “working” that day.  It is a day to honor and celebrate the amazing creativity and diversity of the brewing industry in Michigan that we are so proud to be a part of.

So, if you see us there, say “Hi!” and ask us any questions you may have about hops and the beers we love, but don’t ask us “What do you do in the winter?” or else you may be listening for a while!!!!

Cheers to you!  Keep warm this winter.  Drink good beer and be safe!

Thanks for reading,

Hop Head Bon


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