Maybe it’s just human nature to exaggerate…present an augmented image of one’s self in an attempt to seem more attractive, more successful, more intriguing. It is pervasive in our culture and many others. Some believe it is a marketing tool and others just can’t help themselves. Whatever you call it and however you justify it…it drives me CRAZY!
So as always we will bring this rant back to hops. the craft beer industry is experiencing a second “boom” and a new category for brew has emerged; the nano brewer. I would imagine they are in a similar position to small hop growers in that the only comparison is to the larger brewer on the next block and so they might find themselves inflating, obfuscating, or inveigling their true production. In all honesty it’s probably just a “guy” thing but nevertheless it diminishes an opportunity to set themselves apart from their inevitable comparison.
So let’s talk about appropriate measures for our industry and acres is not one of them. Well, unless we need to know the physical area dedicated to hop production the acres is a perfectly fine metric. However, when anyone wants to know how much production your growing operation has the first thing most people reach for is the acre. Pardon? I didn’t ask you about how much lad you have focused on hop growing…that metric alone means nothing. It must be accompanied by a true measure of productivity (i.e. pounds, kilos, bales, ounces, stones, etc). As a grower, when you engage a brewer do you ask him/her how many acres of Cascade they use? How many acres of Nugget per barrel? See where I’m going here?
As a grower and the director of a growing collective acres is only relevant to the mass of product produced. We project our expansions and directives on more accurate metric: pounds/acre. That number tells us quite a bit in a single glance such as productivity, maturity, intensity of operations, etc. Our state agricultural statistics love to report acres of corn, beans, alfalfa, etc. Those crops have established norms for yield. But hops…they require quite the baby-sitting to hit long-term viable commercial yields. For hops…the acre metric alone is worse than meaningless, it is misleading.
I think this issues bothers me so much because it is counter productive to the greater advancement of our industry. We allow the individual or committee reviewing data to draw their own conclusions by giving them only half of the information. Moreover, exaggerating the perception of acres as a measure of success completely pushes the idea of quality into the shadows.
So next time someone asks you “how many acres do you have” in hops…maybe you can take the opportunity to enlighten them on the topic. If they want big impressive numbers they can look to the Pacific Northwest. Honestly, do they really care? Not likely. But the 30 seconds it takes to answer will give them a much better idea about where to find quality.