Planting Has Begun On Upper Midwest’s Largest Hops Farm Near Foley
FOLEY - With new breweries opening up almost daily in Minnesota, the hops to make the beer has to come from somewhere. And, as soon as next fall, a lot of those hops will be grown on a farm in Foley.
Planting is happening this week on a new 80-acre hops farm owned by Mighty Axe Hops. When it's fully operational, it will be the largest hops farm in the five state upper Midwest region.
Co-owner Eric Sannerud is just 25-years old. It's their fourth season growing hops, starting on a three-acre site on his family farm near Ham Lake. The other co-owner is Benjamin Boo.
Sannerud says they can plant in the fall, because hops are a perennial plant.
We plant here in August in Minnesota, and next August I can get a harvestable crop. So it kind of let's me get that first year, what hop farmers call the baby year, out of the way.
Sannerud says they plan to plant 40 acres now, and the remaining 40 acres next August. Prepping for the planting process included installing 1,800 poles and 20 miles of cable. They'll plant 40,000 seedlings all by hand.
He says there are hundreds of varieties of hops.
This 40 is four varities, the next 40 we'll probably do a couple repeats and we'll try a couple new guys out. It's important to have a diversity of crops so your harvest window is spaced out, and so brewers have options when purchasing from you.
From picking the hops, to packaging their product, that will all be done on site.
Sannerud says there's a demand for locally grown hops.
This year we've sold out of the harvest in Ham Lake. But, in the future years we're really excited and looking forward to selling to Beaver Island, and Bad Habit, and Urban Moose. It's incredible to see craft beers moving across the state.
Sannerud says it's estimated that about 40 acres of hops are planted in the state right now, so his 80 acres will triple the hop crop in Minnesota.
Sannerud says about 20 percent of next year's crop is already spoken for.
Hops were grown in Minnesota before prohibition, but it's a relatively new crop in recent years.
Sannerud says he's also hoping to have tours open to the public on the site starting next summer.