Craft breweries aren't just a fun place to meet up with friends. They may be fueling an unprecedented geographic expansion of hop production across the U.S., according to researchers at Penn State and The University of Toledo. Their findings suggest that as more craft breweries emerge around the country, so may new opportunities for farmers.
Hops are a key ingredient in beer production, providing aroma and bittering characteristics. Before 2007, hop production in the U.S. was limited to only three Pacific Northwest states--Oregon, Washington, and Idaho--according to Claudia Schmidt, assistant professor of agricultural economics in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences. Citing a report released this year by the Hop Growers of America, she said that 29 states are now engaging in hop production.
"Our study is the first to systematically show that the number of hop farms in a state is related to the number of craft breweries," said Schmidt. "It suggests that in areas where hop production is possible and not cost-prohibitive, breweries are expanding markets for farmers and providing an opportunity to diversify farm income."
Using data from the U.S. Census of Agriculture and ReferenceUSA, the researchers found that from 2007 to 2017, the number of breweries in the U.S. more than quadrupled from 992 to more than 4,000, and that the number of breweries in a state is associated with more hop farms and hop acres five years later. The number of hop farms grew from 68 to 817, and hop acreage expanded from 31,145 to 59,429 acres.
"This growth has not only led to interesting changes in the locations of hop farms across the U.S., but it has positioned the U.S. as the largest producer of hops globally, both in terms of acreage and production," said Elizabeth Dobis, a postdoctoral scholar at the Penn State-based Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development, and lead author of the study.
Working with farm, brewery, and climate data, the researchers developed a statistical model to determine whether new craft breweries in a state between 2007 and 2017 resulted in a larger number of hop producers and hop acres planted, by both new and existing growers in that state. They built a time-lag into their model to identify the effect of new breweries over time. They also controlled for other variables that may influence farmers to start growing hops, such as average farm size, average net farm income, and climate.
Their findings, which were published recently in the Journal of Wine Economics, are correlational and do not point to a clear cause-and-effect. However, the time-lag built into the model indicates that the growth in breweries preceded the growth in hop farms, said Dobis.
One possible explanation for the trend is that the growing consumer demand for locally sourced food and beverages encourages craft brewers to seek out locally grown ingredients, said Schmidt.
"While most craft breweries serve a local market, they haven't always sourced local ingredients for their beers," Schmidt said. "But if you're a brewer looking to differentiate yourself in an increasingly crowded market, sourcing ingredients locally is an approach that some brewers have found to be effective."
For example, in a project unrelated to this study, Penn State Extension's Kristy Borrelli and Maria Graziani conducted focus groups with Pennsylvania craft brewers, who reported that sourcing ingredients locally helps them connect with their customers' sense of place and preference for a flavor profile that is unique to the region.
If more brewers are looking for hops grown nearby, then more farmers may be willing to try growing them, even if only on a small scale. For instance, in Pennsylvania only 17 farms reported hop production in 2017, and their combined acreage is small--only 21 acres in all, according to the U.S. Census of Agriculture.
Looking forward, the researchers said that they will collaborate with Penn State Extension to identify the specific attributes and price points that Pennsylvania craft brewers are looking for in order to help inform farmers' production decisions.
The Role of Craft Breweries in Expanding (Local) Hop Production
The common question comes up all the time – “What can I grow here that will make money?” Why not lemons or avocados. The coastal California area is generally well adapted to these crops and infrastructure and markets are developed. Still people want to diversify and do have serious concerns about ACP and other problems that might affect these two big coastal crops.
A recent class of Cal State Channel Islands students was asked to identify crops that would make a difference if introduced to the Ventura/Santa Barbara agroenvironment and would make money based on the exceptional climate here. The crop had to fit into the rules:
1) Something that could be grown here, or only with difficulty somewhere else where it was too hot/cold, or that it is out of sync with production somewhere else
2) Or the corollary, that it couldn't be grown somewhere else more cheaply or processed or stored, somewhere with cheap land/water/labor/laws. Cheap
3) It needs to be fresh and even delicate to make it hard to ship distances.
4) Or if it doesn't meet rules 1-3, it can be marketed so that it takes on the specialty of the locale. “It really cant be grown anywhere else, but here, because it can only be found in Ojai.” Or something of that nature.
So, the proposed perennial crops were:
Pitahaya – Hylocereus undatus or ‘dragon fruit' is already being grown in the county, has a good market and potential and has some drought tolerance although it can have problems in full sun, even along the coast.
Azerole – Crataegus azarolus or ‘Mediterranean medlar'. Does best where not too cold, but with those thorns its going to be a tough crop to pick and will require a lot of marketing even though it can take drought.
Yuzu – Citrus junos is a high demand fresh fruit that grows similar to standard lemon, although a bit more cold hardy. Demand is primarily from Japanese and Korean restaurants. And being citrus might be susceptible to huanglongbing.
Jaboticaba – Myrciara caulifora, a new crop, well adapted to the coast, very tasty and fits in with the locavore trend. And Fresno cant grow it unless in tunnels. And you cant eat just one.
‘Santa Rosa' plum – this is the standard Prunus salicina stone fruit, but because it is early along the coast and can be picked “just so O, ripe” for shipment to LA restaurants that would welcome an alternative to the standard tasteless store-bought fruit
Persimmon – Diaspyros kaki – one of the flat ‘Fuyu' varieties, because they crop earlier along the coast than the Central Valley. And there's nothing more satisfying than that crunch.
Moringa – Moringa oleifera or drumstick tree is often produced for oil, hence the botanical name. It can also be grown for cattle food, but the deal here is it's grown for fresh market for its spinach-like leaf and it's a perennial which you just keep on cutting and cutting and cutting and there's not replanting. A money machine.
Mulberry – Morus alba and nigra. Nothing could be more sweet, but ever so delicate than a mulberry fruit. Harvested off tarps (to comply with food safety) and shipped immediately to farmers markets and to the finest LA restaurants, you can make a bundle or a lot of permanent stain if it doesn't get to the consumer in good shape. Drying is an option, but the Turks have that market.
Tamarillo – Solanum betaceum or ‘Tree Tomato” really like coastal weather and depending on the variety can be quite sour (red) or sweet (yellow). This is one that will take some market development, but could take off as the new fruit on the block.
Hops – Humulus lupulus is a crop that most adults know about it. The grow local/drink local crowd could really get into this. There are so many small breweries looking for a distinguishing mark, and what better than a “Big Piru Pilsner with Priu Hops”. There was a small hop industry along the coast before Prohibition.
Yellow oleander – Thevetia peruviana is an unusual choice for the coast here, but it seems there's a black market for the beads and hard to get. It could be legally grown here to supply a specialty market.
Papaya – Carica papaya. This is one of those crops that has a developed market and already a lot of import to fill the demand. Growing this to go after a new consumer willing to pay more for a high-quality piece of fruit. This is going to take some market development.
Governors plum – Flacourtia indica, a new fruit to the area, although it grows as a weed in Florida. It's gonna take some marketing to get this into the mouths of consumers
According to the group of students who proposed these crops, the most likely to succeed in one year's time (immediate acceptance) was hops because of the drink local move happening here and around the country, but it would be limited to consumers in this area probably. The most likely to succeed in the long term, with market development, would be moringa. It would be a new perennial vegetable crops that could be mechanized and might come to rival spinach itself, because of it perennial nature.
Almost all of these crops could have various health benefits associated with them – longer life, improved vision, springier step, snake-bite remedy, etc. So, they all have promotion potential, aside from their ability to grow here. There are lots of other possible crops here that might rival what is currently commonly grown here. Something or things will rise to replace those that are.
At one-point Oxnard was the sugar beet capital of the world. The world's largest walnut growing area in the country was Ventura Co. and Lima was Rex here. They are all good crops, but their importance has been eclipsed many times by other crops gown here.
- Author: Aubrey Thompson
Blue elderberry, a California native plant with clusters of small bluish-black berries and a sweet-tart flavor, have long been eaten by Native Americans in the western states and are used today in jam, syrups, wines and liqueurs. And while elderberry orchards are popping up in parts of the Midwest, California's elderberries are usually just grown on field edges, and elderberry products sold retail rely mostly on foraged crops or imports.
Farmers at The Cloverleaf Farm near Davis are already selling elderberry products from plants grown on their farm, alongside their blackberries and stone fruits. And they find that customers love them. The farmers want to understand the viability of growing elderberries for market beyond their nascent effort, bringing some of the out-of-state production home.
The UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SAREP) launched a project in collaboration with the Cloverleaf Farm, the UC Agriculture Issues Center, UC Davis Department of Food Science and Technology, and four Central Valley farmers to assess the farm management practices, nutritional content, and market potential for elderberry and elderberry products in California.
“I think a lot about the long-term systems sustainability of our food system,” said Katie Fyhrie, one of the farmers at the Cloverleaf. “I keep thinking about how much we focus on production of blackberries and blueberries, when the elderberry also achieves that dark berry color and flavor people like with much fewer resources.”
Elderberries are typically grown on farms as hedgerows for their ability to attract beneficial insects, act as a windbreak, and sequester carbon, benefiting the overall health of the farm, but not providing direct benefit to a farmer's bottom line. Despite long-running federal cost-share programs for planting hedgerows, the number planted in California is still quite small relative to the large expanses of farmland in the state. Adding a financial incentive to planting elderberries may help increase the popularity of hedgerows amongst farmers.
“When we think about building sustainable farming practices, we can think about the whole farm as being a site of both conservation and profitability,” said Sonja Brodt, the project's principal researcher at UC SAREP. “Elderberries may have the potential to combine crop production with environmental conservation functions in a way not typically seen on California farms. This model would enable small- and medium-scale farmers to receive a direct income from a farm practice that benefits the ecosystem as well.”
As climate change impacts California with heat and unpredictable water availability, some studies suggest farmers may need to consider diversifying the crops they grow to adapt to changing local climates.
Elderberries, which grow in arid California regions along the coast and into the mountains, have the potential to grow in a range of climates and adapt to changing California ecosystems in the future. It is unlikely that farmers would plant entire orchards of elderberries, in part because of restrictions on pruning elderberries that may be home to the Valley elderberry longhorn beetle, a federally threatened species. But for small- and medium-scale growers looking to diversify their income sources, elderberries may provide a boost.
The two-year elderberry project now underway will conclude with a growers' production guide, cost of production study, an assessment of market demand and nutritional contents, and workshops to help link growers with buyers interested in elderberry products. The project will also address issues related to the Valley elderberry longhorn beetle and generating income from hedgerows.
“Elderberry juice is already in so many products,” Fyrhie said, “so building a market for locally grown elderberries seems like a no-lose situation.”
For farmers interested in learning more about incorporating perennials into annual crop farms and similar agroforestry practices, check out this webinar recently hosted by UC SAREP.
Yes, Coffee is now being Commercially Grown in California!
Are you interested in growing, processing and marketing Coffee in California? Would you like to learn about new opportunities for this high-value crop and speak with industry professionals?
The Huntley College of Agriculture is hosting an Inaugural Industry “Coffee Summit” on January 18th at the AgriScapes Outreach Center located on the campus of Cal Poly Pomona.
Hear from the California coffee industry leaders from Santa Barbara and San Diego Counties and from long-time professionals with the University of California, University of Hawaii and USDA. In addition you'll learn about current research field trials to determine which varieties are suitable for production in California.
Summit topics include development of estate coffee, coffee production, pests and diseases, processing methods and marketing. Please join us on January 18th at the AgriScapes Conference Center from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm. Continental breakfast, lunch and coffee tasting will be provided!
Summit Contact: Duncan McKee - Cal Poly Pomona firstname.lastname@example.org
And more info along with agenda and registration:
In the meantime watch the CBS "This Morning" video of California coffee growing
Growers are looking for alternative crops and drought tolerant ones are better than water intensive ones, right? So, here's a recent question from someone who wants to grow the latest, new food crop. “What about growing a drought tolerant (in fact, it doesn't need any water) cactus fruit that will make money?” Cool.
My first response is that it should do no harm. That should be a mantra when it comes to food, especially in this age of hyper-food safety vigilance. People are clever, though and foods that might be dangerous are often produced so that they can be eaten by most people. We do have acorns with tannic acid that need to be leached if you don't want to get severely sick. Olives that need to be processed to edible. Puffer fish that with a wrong slice of the knife can kill you. There are any number of other foods that people have figured out a way to safely eat.
Rumpa is cactus fruit from Chile that has a lot going for it – high nutrient content, high polyphenolic antioxidants, high C, small seeds like kiwi and pitahaya, and tada, drought resistant for our drought prone state. So, it's a cactus, yeah, but it doesn't have the teeth crunching seeds of opuntia cactus fruit – the tunas or prickly pear – that can scare some people. Too vigorous chomping on the wondrously flavored prickly pear fruit leads to the small, hard seeds. Shocking, although they are safe to swallow, mostly.
There are spines, but the fine spines on the rumpa fruit surface can be removed by rubbing on an abrasive surface. Not too vigorously, though since the fruit is quite delicate. This would be the same for the tuna fruit, too. You can get rid of those spines with rubbing, too. So, eating the rumpa should be relatively safe.
The safety issue pops up with the spines on the stems. They are wicked thorns that protect the fruit with all the defenses needed to protect fruit in a hostile environment. This is going to be a tough fruit to harvest. Which may add to it glamour, like puffer fish. Although in this case, it's not the consumer who is taking the risk, but the harvester.
Or you could grow dragon fruit, which is a cactus relative, which has no spines on the fruit and a few on the modified stem/leaves. It's got entirely edible, beautiful seeds. The right variety of dragon fruit can be quite tasteful, although many are quite bland.
So back to the question posed by the grower. If it's safe to eat, do you want to grow it?
According to Francisco Meza in the link below (google translation):
“Its fruits, called rumbas, have a bitter taste similar to lemon, but less tart, which would prevent them from being consumed fresh. However, thanks to its nutritional qualities, such as a high content of vitamin C, and good flavor once sweetened, could be used in the processing of processed foods such as jams, juices and drinks. But that's not all, since according to experts it can also be used in the manufacture of cosmetics.”
So, the advantage California coastal ag has is its climate. That's the competitive advantage. If it can be grown cheaper, processed and shipped here from somewhere else, it's not going to work competitively here. It's hard enough competing with similar climates like Mexico's and Chile's where the shipping becomes a problem for perishables. But that is being dealt with and it's becoming hard for out-of-season coastal blueberry growers to compete with imported fruit in the season that the coast has dominated for the last several years.
So grow rumba/rumpa/copao in Ventura commercially? It's safe to eat. But it doesn't sound like something that you gotta have….now. It sounds like it needs to be jazzed up, which means processing. It's hard to pick. And the market needs to be developed. So, it's probably not a good idea to grow it commercially on the coast.