We began as a Co-op of home hobbyist brewers in the late 90's just outside of Saranac MI. Without a vast availability of brewing ingredients, we propagated a 56 acre share crop with not just hops but grains, spices, fruits and green houses. With help from German and New Zealand growers, we were able to get access to male and female varieties of hop plants. We began cross breeding to create varieties that were better suited to grow in the Midwest. As we grew, so did the home/craft brewing market which made it easier to obtain ingredients. We began to focus more on our breeding program and removed our grain fields turning them into more trellis yards. Eventually the co-op broke apart and was purchased by YSHC which began making the hops commercially available, mostly to past co-op members that opened craft breweries across the nation.
We do all of our own testing and DNA research. We constantly monitor soil conditions and water quality to be more efficient and to make sure our plants have the proper nutrients to produce great yield and flavor. A very important part of our farms is our pest control. We do not use pesticides. We use natural controls like birds, lady bugs and jumping spiders. Our programs have been very successful and also keep our costs down, not to mention providing hours of entertainment.
aaegt Thanks to new and old partnerships, we have grown to 200+ acres with approximately 50% of that acreage propegated, with farms in the Reed City area, Saranac area, and in Yankee Springs where we do a majority of the post-harvest activity. We also have new partnerships in the Pacific North West that will allow us to maintain the growth demands by our current customers while we look to grow locally to consolidate a majority of our acreage to one large farm
While we believe science is the best way to monitor quality, we also brew test beers with every hop strain we grow. Sometimes we have special guests brew beers with us or for us. We feel this also gives us a great understanding of the ever changing palate of the market. Modifying special hop strains for new styles of beer, or dusting off the classics to re-invent a past staple that customers of old and new love. We provide our customers with blends and a variety of media platforms to brew with, all of which have been extensively tested in our brewing setup.
With modern programmable systems becoming more affordable, we can efficiently monitor our soil, water and air conditions 24-7. Software programs like Labview and Raspberry Pi are customizable to our needs and allow for a multiverse of sensors and probes to be used. More complex systems allow us to adjust water PH and nutrient with a push of a button from a smart device.
A lot of hop harvesting equipment is very bulky and expensive. We are developing computer controlled 'point and shoot' systems that only remove the hop cone. Photo eyes can detect the hop cones and place a strategic blast of high pressure air or inert gas to pop the hop cone off the bine. While the program is not in full use yet, we will continue to develop it until it is more reliable with a goal to eventually harvest crop while it is still hanging from the trellis.