Central Valley Grower Making Strides in Hop Production

Brian German Industry, Specialty Crops

The Fowler Packing Company has moved into hop production with the Golden State Hops division within the company, growing five varieties of hops in the Central Valley.  The company is now in its second year of production of Centennial, Cascade, Chinook, Magnum, and Willamette hops varieties and things appear to be running smoothly.

“Three of the varieties are doing really well.  The Cascade, Chinook, and Magnum are performing well; the Willamette, every year they’re getting a little bit better,” said Grant Parnagian, Executive Vice President of Farming for Fowler Packing.  “The Centennial variety, it’s one of the most finicky varieties to grow anywhere so I think maybe being here with the climate that we have makes it even a little bit more tough.”

One of the keys to success for Golden State hops is the freshness they can offer to brewers.  The location of the operation provides for the quick delivery to local breweries and the scope of investment into production infrastructure helps set the company apart from other operations.  “Our processes are different than how they normally do it.  From harvesting to actually pelletizing and packaging, we can do it in no longer than 24 hours,” Parnagian explained.

The process of hop production in the Central Valley is similar to other summer crops.  The plants emerge in the spring and continue to grow into the trellis system through the early summer, with harvest occurring around the end of July.  The climate in the Central Valley can be somewhat stressful on certain types of hops and Parnagian said they are looking at other varieties to try out moving forward.

“There’s a newer class of varieties that came out a short time ago.  It’s called the Neomexicana class of varieties,” said Parnagian. “There’s four different varieties in that class and I think they’ll be a little bit better suited for growing here in the Central Valley.”

The product that Golden State Hops has been providing to brewers has been met with a positive response, with demand likely to increase as more breweries look for California grown hops.  Parnagian noted that in their second year they are producing around 500 pounds per acre on average, with plans to expand in the future.  “Our goal is in the next two years to probably get to around 1,500 pounds of pellets per acre,” said Parnagian.

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Brian German

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Ag News Director, AgNet West