Originally posted: July 2nd, 2014
The 2014 Ohio Brew Week Symposium about growing hops in Ohio included a panel of farmers and Brad Bergefurd, of OSU Extension, was there to answer questions.

With the increasing emphasis on products made with locally grown ingredients, the use of hops grown in the state interests Ohio craft beer producers.

According to the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) at The Ohio State University (OSU), the state’s brewers spend an estimated $4 million annually by purchasing hops from growers outside the state. Most of U.S. hops are grown in the Pacific Northwest.

To help keep some of that economic activity within the state, Ohio State University is in the midst of the second of a two-year hop research program focused on production and marketing, said Brad Bergefurd, OSU Extension agriculture educator at the university’s South Centers in Piketon and at the Scioto County office of OSU Extension. The two-year project is funded by a U.S. Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant.

The researchers hope to develop sustainable production practices directly related to Ohio growing conditions, Bergefurd said. Data collected from these applied research trials will allow for the education of growers about production, pest management practices and phenology data, he said. Research plantings are being grown at the OARDC in Wooster and at the OSU South Centers at Piketon on two different soil types.

Besides growing various types of hops to determine the best kind to grow in Ohio, the research will evaluate new hop cultivars, innovative hop production techniques, insect and disease control methods, harvesting and processing hops, and marketing techniques that can be adopted by Ohio farmers, Bergefurd said.

“This will allow Ohio’s beer manufacturers to spend their money in Ohio by purchasing Ohio-grown hops and ultimately help create Ohio jobs,” Bergefurd said. “This crop may allow Ohio growers to diversify into a high-value specialty crop.”

There is an ever-increasing Ohio market for hops with the expanding brewing industry, which has seen a dramatic increase in new alcohol-manufacturing permits during the past few years in the state, according to the Ohio Department of Liquor Control.

Currently in Ohio, hops are grown in gardens and by homeowners on a small scale, and there are some growers already trying to grow them on their farms. The reason hops production moved to the western United States about 100 years ago was because of disease and insect pests that reduced production in Ohio, Bergefurd said. The researchers hope the project demonstrates that advances in production technology will allow hops to be commercially grown in Ohio.

“From our discussions with Ohio’s microbrewing industry, which is partnering with us on this project, brewers have shown interest in directly purchasing Ohio-grown hops and may be willing to pay a premium.”