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Old 03-31-2013, 09:21 PM   #1
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Default Upstate New York hop farm experiences

I'd be curious to know what kinds of yields hop growers have experienced and could be expected in upstate NY. I am very curious about starting a small yard, but would like to better understand what kind of success people are having in NY, and with what varieties, and how those yields have performed over time? I understand that Cascade, Centennial, Willamette, Chinook, and Nugget are varieties that may perform well.....



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Old 03-31-2013, 10:15 PM   #2
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Old 04-01-2013, 01:05 AM   #3
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I've stumbled around the NeHA and UVM sites and did not find anything about yields for U/C-NY or VT grown hops--maybe I overlooked it? I did send in a member form last Thursday to NeHA and hope that maybe more info is available once that gets processed.

At $10-$15k per acre to trellis and establish a farm, 2-3 years before there's a harvestable crop, and upwards of $2.5k/acre of growing/hop yard maintenance costs, I'd sure like to have an idea of what the backend yields/cash flows could be......? All the yield potential I've seen has dealt with crops in the PNW, which I understand could be very significantly different than what my be realized in the NE?

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Old 04-01-2013, 01:32 AM   #4
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I can't provide you specific information on New England but I can tell you that it's probably not much different from what we have in the Midwest.

You should be able to get an acre installed for $10k or less plus the cost of a well, tractor/truck/trailer, platform to work above, assorted tools, drying equipment, picking equipment, etc. (The well is the tricky one to estimate.)

I can tell you to be profitable you won't be able to sell at spot market prices. We ask for a premium for our pellets and in exchange offer brewers access to our yard, our processing facility, etc. We also shoot for a premium product.

You can obtain the same yield as PNW, but you need to be more diligent in your nutrient application, scouting for pest/disease, and irrigation. In other words, more work per acre and the need for a premium price.

The final question for you to answer is how are you going to sell the product? Whole cone? Pellets? wet? You need to determine the market for each. Pellets is easy to predict but hard to produce. Talk to NeHA about any pelletizing facility they may have set up or in the works.

Good luck.

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Old 04-01-2013, 03:38 AM   #5
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In my analysis of an established fully yielding (1,000 lbs/acre) 7 acre yard, using a small harvester that can do 50 bines/hr, and running 14 hrs across 2 shifts for a 15 day harvest window, I've been assuming about about $5.75/lb to generate a salable, pelletized product. The $5.75 assumed 7 workers/shift at $15/hr, ~$900 in energy/maintenance, $1/lb for pelleting, and $1,500/acre for plant nutrients.

Are you getting dried yields somewhere around the following in the MW, assuming ~1,500 bines/acre:
- Cascade ~1,500 lbs, or 1 lb/bine with a spot of $6.80
- Centennial ~1,500 lbs, or 1 lb/bine with a spot of $8.40
- Willamette ~1,300 lbs, or 0.87 lb/bine with a spot of $7.15
- Chinook ~1,700 lbs, or 1.13 lb/bine with a spot of $8.40
- Nugget ~1,800 lbs, or 1.2 lb/bine with a spot of $7.10

If the yields can approach even the low end of the PNW average yield range, then the economics make considerably more sense......?

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Old 04-01-2013, 02:04 PM   #6
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Well...a bit optimistic.

First, full yields are possible as I mentioned. We have found that it really varies by variety and by location. The right type in the right location will easily give you 1,000 lb.

Second, one assumption you are off on is that everything will be ready to harvest at the same time. Depending on what you plant, how you prune, your climate...basically we start harvesting cascade or other varieties in late August and may not be ready to harvest the nugget until October. Your harvest window per variety is really only 10 days but each variety will have their window at different times.

Next, harvest time changes drastically with each variety. We call our harvestor the "3060" because it takes between 30 and 60 seconds per bine, for normal varieties. One problem is that many of the heirloom types, like Northern Brewer, grow really well in our valley but take longer than 60 seconds to pick. Others like pearle jump off the bine as soon as they see the picker. So plan on at least doubling you harvest time. If you are looking at a used Wolf or similar, plan on some down time for equipment repair.

$1/lb for pelletizing...I guess that is possible but that probably wouldn't include packaging, testing, etc. Figure more around $2/lb or more, assuming you can find a place. The big guys in the PNW won't touch anything less than several thousand pounds per variety. Basically, there is some loss from charging the die. If you don't have sufficient quantity, you end up charging the die and not getting a single pellet out. We've got a much smaller die and have developed methods to push the pellets out but we are still looking at a few pounds of waste.

Also include in your model a $ value for your time. Once the trellis is established and rhizomes in the ground, figure 20 hours/week/acre labor for the first two years. This is mostly weeding but also spotting for pests/disease, adjusting irrigation system, training plants, etc. Yes, your time is "free" but realize you could spend that time delivering pizza or something else that would pay you.

I'm not trying to chase you away from this. By all means, the more the merrier. What you are going to find is you'll need to get prices at least $12/pound or better. I know some that have to demand $25.lb or more. If you are trying to play the spot market and meet the lowest cost price, you will get eaten alive. That's akin to opening a dime store right next to a Walmart. People may come in once to see what you have, buy something "local" but in the end the low price wins out. What stores make it near Walmarts? Little niche shops that offer something that Walmart doesn't. That's what you need to have. A local, sustainable crop that has a higher quality than what is offered from the big boys. Trust me, most brewers realize their customers are all local so they want to support local. But to quote one of our brewers, "...I don't care if its grown in my backyard. If its S**T, I won't brew with it."

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Old 04-12-2013, 04:57 PM   #7
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Dan,
Were you referring to a Bine Implements 3060 Harvester or something else? I have been looking for a reasonably priced harvester for a 5 or less acre farm. Dosen't seem like too much out there for less than 15k Thanks

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Old 04-12-2013, 05:11 PM   #8
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Hey Fred! I was going to let these guys know that is they are in the Rochester area and wanted to stop by we are having people over this weekend to help plant 800 new rhizomes in our expansion (6 varieties). We will be planting tomorrow and Sunday the 13th and 14th from 9-5 with refreshments for the helpers. If anyone is interested in seeing the yard and lending a hand we would love to see you stop out. We would appreciate a notice ahead so we know who to expect contact me @ kurtcharland@bergmannpc.com. Our website is bluebellhopyard.com you can find our location and see what's hoppening there.Our yard is in Farmington NY

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Old 04-12-2013, 05:15 PM   #9
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Yep, that is the unit and it is less than 15k.

How close are you to the harvester that Cornell/NeHA purchased? I understood it was supposed to be open to the public as a harvesting option.

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Old 04-12-2013, 06:27 PM   #10
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Dan:
We need to talk soon about pelletizing.



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