Greeley’s Hoffman Farms sees good yield in first year of hops production
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To find out more about Hoffman Farms or Hops and Peppers, visit the Hoffman Farms, LLC, Facebook page or http://www.hopsandpeppers.com. They can also be reached at (970) 978-6765.
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Hops and Peppers is at three farmers markets on a weekly basis during the summer.
» The Larimer County Farmers Market from 8 a.m.-noon Saturdays at 200 South Oak St., Fort Collins.
» The Loveland Farmers Market from 9 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Sundays at 700 S. Railroad Ave., Loveland.
» The Evans Farmers Market from 4-7 p.m. Thursdays at Riverside Library, 3700 Golden St., Evans.
When a friend asked her what you do with hops, 3-year-old Hannah Hoffman answered simply, saying, “Make money.”
Hannah lives at Hoffman Farms, 33177 Pikes Peak Drive in Greeley, Colo., with her parents Derrick and Hanmei, and she is growing up with a hop yard in her back yard.
She sometimes can be seen running through the field, playing — because a hop yard is more exciting than the swing set that sits behind the house — plus, that’s where mom and dad can normally be found.
Derrick Hoffman works three jobs, and he’s ready to knock that number down by a few.
“I work Monday through Thursday at UNC, Fridays for 3-dB Networks, farming in the evenings and Saturday and Sunday, and then kids in between all of that,” he said.
Not that he doesn’t enjoy all of his jobs, but he, like many other farmers, is trying to find a main source of work in his fields.
“I hope that this is built up enough in three years and we’ve expanded enough that I have just one job in three years,” he said.
But the three-year goal won’t be an easy one. Hops generally take about three growing years to reach their full production capacity, and it is a very labor-intensive crop, Hoffman said.
“If you want to find out who your friends are, build a hop yard,” he said with a chuckle while checking out the quarter-acre plot.
He said the market in Colorado is calling for more hops, and he’s a willing participant.
Hoffman said they are set to harvest about 200 pounds of hops this year, their first year in commercial production.
They started harvesting over the weekend and will continue Friday, he said, because the hops are ready.
“If you smell them right now, they smell like beer,” Hoffman said.
They didn’t expect such a big yield, he said, so they didn’t plan the sale of the hops.
It wasn’t hard to find takers though. Employees from a new brewery in Boulder County, Gunbarrel Brewing Company, will be coming to help pick some fresh, local hops on Friday. Gunbarrel hasn’t opened yet, but Hoffman said they were very interested in doing a beer with local hops.
Some of the remaining hops will go to Strange Craft Beer Company in Denver and possibly Big Thompson Brewery in Loveland.
A small amount of the hops harvest will be dried at the Hoffmans’ and then sold at Farmers Markets for home brewers.
The rest will be sold to a supplier.
WeldWerks is also on their list, though Hoffman Farms didn’t produce enough this year to supply for their 15-barrel system this year. Next year they will.
When the quarter acre is at full capacity it should produce about 1,000 pounds of hops each year, and Hoffman said they plan to expand.
He said they try to keep their costs low and their sale price point in line with what hops grown in the Pacific Northwest go for.
They will sell for about $2 per ounce for home brewing and small batches, and for about $4-5 per pound for breweries. That’s in line with their current contracts, he said.
“The biggest complaint about Colorado hops is the cost,” Hoffman said. So he wants to keep it competitive.
Hoffman said he’s working on the hops business because he’d like for his daughters to grow up on a farm like he did.
He remembers driving the barley his father grew down to Golden to the Coors factory, and he remembers playing on tractors as a young boy.
“I hope to give my kids the same childhood I had,” he said. “There’s something to be said about the family farm.”
Hanmei also grew up on a farm, but in China. Now she grows a lot of Asian beans and produce, which she sells at the farmers markets.
“My grandparents all farmed in southeast Asia,” Hanmei said.
Hanmei has named the business end of the farm Hops and Peppers, because she grows a lot of peppers.
When she sells her Asian produce at the farmers markets, Hanmei said she often has to explain what it is.
“When I sell at the farmers market, people are very interested because my variety is very different,” she said. “People ask what you do with the beans and I tell them how to cook. I say this is what I grew up eating.”
She explained that farming there was a lot different — a lot more traditional. She said they still use oxen to carry the water out to the crops.
Hoffman said they bought the land they’re on for a few reasons. Location and water.
He said the land came with enough water shares to fill it with hop yards, so that’s what he eventually plans to do.
“When you’ve got land and water, why grow grass?” Hoffman asked. ❖
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