The County Ag Report: Hop Farming

Many varieties of crops can grow in Aroostook County, and hops are one of lesser-known ones making a resurgence.

(Jason) It's not very commonly grown. There's only really a few, handful of farmers in the state.

Jason Johnston is the co-owner of Aroostook Hops, one of the oldest farms in the state for hops.

(Jason) Well, hops are a perennial that grow from the ground up to eighteen plus feet by July first. And then, they produce the cones, then you cut down the entire vine, and put them through a harvester, and then they start up the next year. So, they grow really fast. I've measured eleven inches in one 24-hour period of hops growing up the string that we give them to grow on.

Johnston says hops are most commonly used for brewing beer, and have been used in that capacity for over 300 years. At Aroostook Hops, five varieties are grown.

(Jason) We sell them locally and around the state, into New Hampshire, sometimes into New Brunswick; Northern Maine Brewing Company locally is 100% Aroostook Hops and we're really happy about that.

Hops require a lot of labor to care for, and they're also one of the first signs of spring in the County!

(Jason) You can still see snow on the ground and the hops are poking through the ground. So they start really early, and harvest is late August into mid-September.

Johnston says hops have been grown in the County before he and his wife entered the industry ten years ago, but before that, you'd need to go back to the 1930s.

(Jason) We would like to see others getting into the business as well so that there is a critical mass of hop farmers and ability to supply the growing Maine beer industry.

While hops do require specific farming equipment, Johnston says it's a crop farmers could consider adding to their rotations. Anthony Macari, NewsSource 8.