Thursday, July 25, 2019

Hidden Valley Hops Farm

Justin Gloede is doing something in the Town of Winchester that hasn't been done there in almost 140 years. He's putting in a new hopyard.

Justin Gloede (green shirt) in his hop yard.

 Three years ago, Gloede planted a small set of hops on his family's farm in the Town of Winchester. Those plants have thrived. The bounty of hop cones they produced surprised and encouraged him. This year, Gloede decided to get serious about hops. He built a 12-pole trellis that covers about a tenth of an acre and began putting down roots.

"I have about 70 plants in the ground right now," Gloede says. "I’ll have roughly 110 plants total after I finish planting next year. I’m also going organic. No pesticides."

This is a long-term project. The typical hop yard takes 4-5 years to reach its potential in terms of yield. Gloede's work now is mainly about getting his plants established and setting a foundation for future growth. Mother Nature hasn’t been much help.

"What a year to try and grow hops," Gloede says. "All this rain is killing me."

Another rain-soaked day in the Town of Winchester.

Nevertheless, Gloede's yard is taking root. He's put in a diverse mix that includes Cascade, Chinook, Hallertau, Nugget, Saaz, and Tettnanger. He’s also planted a hop that goes back to the origins of hop growing in Winnebago County.

Gloede was given permission to harvest roots from the site of the old Silas Allen farm in Allenville. Allen's hopyard, planted sometime around 1849, was likely the first in Winnebago County. Hops still grow wild there. That plot is located about a mile from Gloede's yard and the hops he's transplanted from it have quickly acclimated to their new home.

"The Allenville hops are exploding," he says. "I’m already looking at putting in two more rows of it, but that's still to be determined."

Gloede has joined the Wisconsin Hop Exchange, a statewide cooperative established to assist hop growers, and he would eventually like to help supply area breweries and homebrewers with locally sourced hops. He has room to expand and plans to purchase a pelletizer once he's able to produce a sufficient harvest.

"I’m going to find a way to get a pelletizer at some point," Gloede says. And I’ll be open to pelletizing other peoples hops, too. No idea if there’s a market for that, but we'll see."

Gloede is joining a farming lineage that was nearly forgotten in Winnebago County. In the 1870s there were more than 115 acres of hops spread across the four northcentral Winnebago County townships of Clayton, Vinland, Winchester, and Winneconne. By the early 1880s, all of it had been plowed under. Gloede's yard is in the heart of those fertile lands. He could not have picked a better place to stage a revival.

You can follow the progress of Gloede's yard at the Hidden Valley Hops Farm Facebook page.

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