|Why We Volunteer|
In this post I will blog about the process and in a follow-up post I will blog about the people and the experience I had. There is simply too much information for one post.
I should note that Saranac is doing its part to support the local agricultural community through a partnership with Wrobel Farms.
So Hoppy to be Here
Come on. You had to know some happy/hoppy wordplay would be involved. Well, I got it out of the way early.
With the scariest part out of the way, driving my car directly off the highway into an undulating field of grass, I round the trees to enter the field of play. If you decide to attend in the future, don't drive anything with a stock low clearance and definitely not dropped…but I don't know too many craft beer / hop fans that put the drop on their rides.
|The Hop Field|
I would have to think some kind of powered lift had to be used to tie the twine to the cable at the beginning of the season.
|Jim Cutting down Cascade|
It was inspiring to see so many bines full of hops.
Note about the telephone pole farm description: I don't know if this actually a thing but in Chester NJ there was a field supposedly owned by AT&T full of upright telephone poles. I believe they tested poles there? We called it a telephone pole farm but enough about that, let's get back to the hops.
Reporting for Duty
Boots on…check, hat…check, gloves…check, sunscreen…check. Turns out I did not really need any of that because Wrobel Farms had constructed a circus-sized tent in the middle of the field for the pickers.
After checking in I reported directly to Jim Wrobel, Chief Hop Picking Instructor (unofficial title) and co-owner of the farm. The other owner is his wife Susan, who is also providing support and instruction. As a married man on my own passion mission, I know full-well that much is not possible for a man to accomplish without a supportive and patient wife.
|Pails and Pickers|
Jim was also adamant (for obvious reason) that the whole cone be picked, even to err on the side of throwing some leaf and stem into your pail if that is what it would take to make sure you got the whole cone. Some cones seemed harder than others to pick. Mt. Hood seemed to provide the most resistance.
An experience time-out here: Can I just tell you how intoxicating the hop aroma was under that tent? Incredible! I did not wash my hands before I left so I could enjoy the aroma all along my 4 hour ride home.
|A Stretcher full of Cascade 69|
By the way, I asked Nick Matt about the choice between manual picking and using a machine. He mentioned how great it was to use the manual picking as a way to bring the community together to share the experience.
It wasn't too long into picking that I felt the same way. More on that here- (post about the people and the experience)
I grabbed an H2 and a dog then headed over to a barn where Susan Wrobel was starting a group off with picking some specialty hops.
Pickin' in the Barn
|Brewer's Gold in the Barn|
Through disease and pest outbreaks, and a ban during Prohibition, the hops have survived and have been propagated down through the generations of farm owners. They call these their Heirloom varietal as they have not been able to determine exactly what hop variety they are.
To note, Wrobel Farms evidently grows some very in demand garlic that gets sold to some top restaurants in New York City.
All in all, the hop harvest ran like a well-oiled machine. Nicely laid out, well planned, and instructed.
The great thing is that we will get a chance to experience the fruits of our labor. Saranac will brew a beer with the hops and invite the Club Saranac pickers to a party to celebrate yet another successful harvest.