A late spring frost has the potential to ruin the crops of many Michigan farmers. Fortunately, Brian Tennis, originally an organic cherry farmer, had most of his crops survive. That’s because Tennis has entered the field of growing hops.
As the craft beer industry is taking off, the demand for hops is on the rise. Michigan farmers, like Tennis, are making sure they are part of this trend. Hops, which gives stouts and ales that bitter taste, is a processed flower which grows on trellises. The buds are tough, and can undergo several frosts without dying out.
Michigan, along with Colorado and New York, is becoming one of the United States’ fastest-growing states for the production of hops. It is home to 140 craft breweries. Many of these breweries maintain a focus on local products, and the Michigan farmers are there to aid the call.
Due to their locality, Michigan hops growers can charge a price that is well above the national average. In turn, the state’s brewers pay less for transportation, and worry less about the spoilage of hops over long distances.
Even as the craft beer develops, the hops industry is not risk free. Farmers are worried about bugs and fungus making their way into the hops, the intensity of labor required to harvest the product, as well as overall cost of transitioning to growing hops.
However, none of this is halting the hops growers nationwide. Acreage of these crops has increased by 18 percent across the nation over the past 24 months.