The craft brew scene is exploding across the Northwest, and our region’s appetite for hops is exploding with it. But with just a small number of hops farms so far in Idaho, those who already grow the crop are looking for ways to increase yields and supply Idaho’s increasing demand.
Fourth-generation farmer Brock Obendorf, manager and co-owner of Obendorf Hop Inc. and Obendorf Farms near Jordan Valley, Oregon and current president of the Idaho Hops Commission, is one such hops farmer making big changes to keep Idaho hoppy.
In the past five years, Obendorf Hop has increased its acreage of hops from 1,250 to 3,000, added seven hop varieties, and transitioned to exclusive drip irrigation, growing yields by 15%. Brock, his brother Phil, and his father Greg have also expanded their production facilities three times.
The farm’s next step is to automate as much of the farming process as possible. Hops are a time intensive and difficult crop to grow, with specific plant training and bloom timing needs that make automation very difficult. But Obendorf is starting to use picking and cutting equipment to cut labor costs as well as sensors to monitor moisture and soil quality to improve the harvest.
As Obendorf continues to expand and enhance production, look for these techniques to catch on to the rest of the blossoming hops industry.
Stop by the Albertsons Farmer’s Market to learn more about this year’s Farm Family Today winners.