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Old 02-11-2009, 01:50 PM   #1
Dloucks
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Default Small farm

I've got a couple questions regarding scale for those of you who have been around the block a few times.


I have a small tract of farm land that my wife and I bought (about 10 acres) and built our house on. I have a clearing behind our home that I would like to put a small scale hop farm on. I want to do something that will allow me to start small (50 crowns, 25 of 2varieties). I want to do something that will allow me to expand in the future if I decide it's worthwhile.

As an electric co-op customer I have access to free telephone poles that the electric company has rejected for one reason or another. In the past we have used this for other farm related activities with no problems. My father in law has a horse ranch (190 acres) right down the road so augers and lifts to put the poles in the ground won't be a problem.

I'm thinking of creating two "lines" of hops, but putting the poles in the ground at a "to be deterimined" spacing and plant the hops ever 2.5 feet along the length of that line. I would suspend a cable between the two poles at or near the top and hand hop twine directly down to a stake in the ground at the crown. I would have 2 rows like this about 6-8' apart so I can drive a small garden tractor between the rows, and a different variety on each row. This would allow me to add on to the end of a row for more of the same variety, and my acreage would allow me to add future rows in front or behind these.

On to my question. When these plants begin to grow, they are going to put a lot of weight on the cable suspended between the poles. With a crown at ever 2.5' how much distance can I put between the poles before the weight of the bines becomes too much for the cable. The weight and tension of the cable has to be such that it, along with the weight of the plants won't pull the poles over. Has anyone set something like this up in the past? did you use guide lines for the poles to keep the upright?

My original thought was to put 4 poles in the ground and send the hops up yarn in a christmas tree fashion up the pole, but putting them in rows seems like it will be much easier to maintain the hop yard and possibly get more plants per pole.

Ideas suggestions?

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Old 02-11-2009, 03:12 PM   #2
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I'd say go per plan, but rather than tieing off the cable at the top of the poles, run a hole through and just add to the length of the line so that your line goes to ground from the pole. like a tent tiedown. If you use steel braded line covered in plastic (weather proof). something like 3/8+" I'd think it could take any pressure from 12 plants if you want to split them and have a pole in the middle to spread the load. 12 plants with a spread of 2.5' between is going to be 30' between poles. So 60' for each row.

Nice starter Hop farm in my opinion.

Cheers and man I wish I could get "Reject" poles.....

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Old 02-11-2009, 03:28 PM   #3
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Thanks, I was leaning towards the "tent tiedown" type just to keep the poles upright, but didn't know if it was over kill. if I have 30' between poles that's 10-12 plants between poles. Even at 20lbs per plant that shouldn't be too bad weight wise, so I feel a little better.

I've got enough room that I could eventually run each row out to about 150' without having to clear much in the way of trees or fool with ground work (drainage is very good at this particular site). 150' would allow me to eventually to expand to 50-60 plants per row, and I have enough depth to add as many rows as I could ever hope to handle.

I think I'll go with two rows, 60' long using 6 posts (3 per row. One variety on each row about 20-25 plants on each. If all goes well there will be room to double my plants without having to do any more infrastructure immediately. 2 rows would hold 100 plants and I'm pretty sure I can't process that many without help (I have the space, just not enough hands).

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Old 02-11-2009, 03:31 PM   #4
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Most hop yards use 4 feet between plants and 14 feet between rows. This is partially to minimize the cost of the drip irrigation system and partially to allow the use of vertical yarns. The latter minimizes the amount of bine training. Older yards used a 7x7 grid, but that required two overhead lines per row and much more training.

With two bines per plant, figure 15-20 pounds maximum.

horse ranch - maybe this opens the "organic" option.

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Old 02-11-2009, 03:32 PM   #5
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Have you thought about how you're going to harvest and dry the hops? I'm no expert in this matter, but there was a lot of fairly specialized (customized) gear they were using when Mike went to a farm on Dirty Jobs. Have you thought through the whole processing aspect?

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Old 02-11-2009, 03:49 PM   #6
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I've though through the drying a bit. my father-in-laws stable is pretty good sized (80 x 120). I'm planning on using scrap 1" and 2" oak (milled from the farm and left over from building the barn) to build large drying screens that we will suspend in the rafters of the barn. I figure I have two years to get that part completely figured out, as the first year harvest can probably be done in my barn (24 X 40). This should also give me a better idea of the scale I will need to implement for 50+ mature plants.

Since we do a lot of hunting we have a large "nearly commercial" vacuum system that we can put whole shoulders, butts, loins etc in, it should be perfect for sealing up 1+lb portions of hops.

So to answer the question...I have though through the processing aspect, but I'm also aware that it probably won't be sufficient for the first mature yield and that I will probably have to make some changes before the 2nd year harvest.

As for the spacing I was originally planning 3' per plant with 10' of space between rows to get a larger tractor in between rows. Might still do this, I just didn't want to put rows 10-20' apart and then some day wish I had gone closer. Guess it goes both ways. I'm not looking to become a commercial grower, just want something bigger than a garden, closer to the "hobby farm" scale. Enough to supply myself and supplement the expenses by selling/trading to club members.

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Old 02-11-2009, 04:07 PM   #7
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Might be of use... DL the pdf...

Hop Gardening

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Old 02-11-2009, 04:19 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bmarley5780 View Post
Might be of use... DL the pdf...

Hop Gardening


Funny,
i've been through that site a hundred times and even read through that entire page you linked to, but never saw the 26 page PDF on there.


Thanks
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Old 02-11-2009, 04:23 PM   #9
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How will you HARVEST all those hops? Hell, harvesting from my 6 bines is enough!

Are you doing this for income? How will you measure the IBU's... you will never be able to sell a single hop without being able to tell customers what the IBU's are on your particular crop.

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Old 02-11-2009, 04:49 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Pol View Post
How will you HARVEST all those hops? Hell, harvesting from my 6 bines is enough!

Are you doing this for income? How will you measure the IBU's... you will never be able to sell a single hop without being able to tell customers what the IBU's are on your particular crop.

The harvest is the part that concerns me the most. I've got a few extra hands that I can get to do the work for beer....but we aren't really talking about an hour or two of labor here are we? So aside from family, self, friends I do have to work out the harvest.

As for the AA, this is something I think i have under control. The AG department at the University of Missouri will test for a price. Last I had heard it was 50-75 bucks, which wouldn't be a bad price to pay if I had a crop big enough to try to sell.

I'm not doing this for income, however I wouldn't be opposed to that happening, it certainly isn't something I would be dependent upon. Mainly it's for person consumption, along with club consumption. If I end up trading away most of my crop for grain to club members, then so be it.
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