Nick and Mallory Zachrich spoke to a small crowd about their hops farming experience at the Champaign County Community Center on Thursday as part of the Champaign County Agricultural Association’s winter speaker series. The Zachriches explained how they began growing hops for beer brewing in the summer of 2017 as a long-term investment and a way to teach their children about agriculture.
“During the flowering stage the females produce burrs, and then those burrs will produce cones, so all of our plants are females only because they are producing those cones that we want, so it’s a good thing I’m not a jealous lady because he’s out there with thousands of ladies daily,” said Mallory, who teaches agriculture at Urbana High School.
“We looked at a lot of different ways people were doing it before we decided how we were going to do it,” said Nick, who works for the Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences. “The biggest things were how to set up our trellis, did we need irrigation? Did we need to be able to spray some way? And then afterwards it’s not just growing the hops themselves, you have to be able to put them in a manner that can be sold to a brewer. So most of the marketing and hops is direct marketing to brewers, whether they be home brewers or craft breweries or larger breweries, so we decided we were going to partner with some people who already have some of that equipment, so what we need to do is dry our hops after they are harvested, and then we take them to somebody else to get them processed in the way we need to market them to a brewer.”
The Zachriches said that local hops growers are not competitive and have become involved in the Ohio Hops Growers Guild. They also said that because hops were a perennial crop they would probably outlast the 30-year lifespan of their trellises. The most important decision they faced was the variety of hops they grew, finally settling on a mixture of Centennial, Zeus, Maguum, Willamette and Cashmere hops.
They answered questions from the audience and offered guidance to any potential hops growers in the area. They can be reached through the Zachrich Hop Yard facebook page.
The Champaign County Agricultural Association holds meetings 11 a.m.-noon on the first Thursday of every month, which sometimes includes an educational presentation. No speaker has yet been determined for the next event on April 4. For more information, contact The Ohio State University extension office at 937-484-1526.