Are hops the future of Iowa’s agricultural economy?

Hops -- photo via Wikimedia Commons
Could hops become a major cash crop in Iowa? — photo via Wikimedia Commons

Solon Farmer Mark Pattison is now growing hops on land that has historically been used for soybeans and corn. The 25-acre Buck Creek Hops operation will be home to 25,000 new hops plants this year — and 1,600 22-foot poles for the crops to climb — making it one of the largest hopyards in the Midwest.

When his plants are fully matured after their third year, Pattison estimates he will be producing 80,000 pounds of hops annually, the Press-Citizen reports (paywall).

Buck Creek, already supplying hops to Solon’s Big Grove Brewery, has high hopes for the future of its hops. Patterson told the Press-Citizen he hopes to “make Solon the Napa Valley of Beer.”

Is he crazy? Maybe. But these efforts are exciting not only because they add tasty notes of authenticity to our region’s growing craft beer culture, but also because they address our region’s dire need to diversify its agricultural practices. Not to mention, with some varietals garnering up to $20 per pound, Iowa’s expanded participation in hops production could have a huge economic impact.

What do you think? Can hops take off in Iowa? Learn more about Buck Creek at their website, and to taste their hops, visit Big Grove Brewery for a beer.

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