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NMSU to host symposium on hops as an alternative crop

FARMINGTON, N.M. - The microbrewery industry in the Four Corners region, including southwest Colorado, is potentially looking for a local source of hops, one of the key ingredients in their brew.

Two people looking at a tall plant.
A field day visitor and Mike Kelly, Farmington Agricultural Science Center staff member, look at the hops flower cone to see if the lupulin glands have formed. NMSU has conducted a variety trial, including native Neo Mexicana, to determine that hops can grow in the Four Corners, San Juan River Valley region. NMSU will host a symposium July 12-13 to provide marketing and production information to potential growers. (NMSU Photo by Geraint Smith)

New Mexico State University researchers have proven that the plant, which provides the aroma and bitter flavor of beer, will grow in the region.

Now it is time for small-scale producers to learn of the pros and cons of producing and marketing hops so they have research-based information to make their decision whether to raise the crop.

NMSU, with funding from the New Mexico Department of Agriculture, will host a symposium on hops production and marketing in the Four Corners Region Friday, July 12, and Saturday, July 13. Friday's meeting will be from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Three Rivers Brewery banquet hall, 107 E. Main St. in Farmington. Saturday morning a tour of the experimental hops trial will be conducted at NMSU's Agricultural Science Center at Farmington.

Pre-registration is encouraged; call 505-960-7757. Cost for the two-day event is $40, which includes lunch on Friday. To view the agenda, visit http://farmingtonsc.nmsu.edu/workshops.html#anchor_116228.

"As with any new commercial crop a grower may be considering, it is important for them to carefully research market needs and consumer preferences first, then appropriate scale production and post-harvest practices before planting that new crop. That's why we want people who may be thinking about growing hops to attend this symposium," said Kevin Lombard, NMSU horticultural researcher who has conducted the hops variety trail with his cooperators since 2008. "Emphasis will be placed on commercial, small-scale farm production and niche marketing. It will include presentations by brewmasters, growers and university agricultural researchers."

The program will include Bob Beckley of Three Rivers Brewing Company in Farmington and Dave Thibodeau of Ska Brewing Company in Durango, Colo., discussing the market and brewer equipment demands for utilizing non-pelletized hops from a small-scale to large-scale brewing perspective.

Ron Goddin of Colorado State University will present information about hops production in Colorado. While Beth LaShell of Fort Lewis College in Durango and Lombard give an update on the Four Corners hops variety trail, Heather Darby of the University of Vermont will discuss the New England Hops Alliance. Ram Acharya of NMSU agricultural economics and Goddin will give an economic forecast of hops in New Mexico and Colorado.

Todd Bates from Taos, N.M., will talk about his work with native New Mexico hops and De Smet Farms in Bosque Farms, N.M., and other small-scale commercial producers will also talk about their personal experiences with growing hops.

"Our research has demonstrated that hops will grow in the region and that there is a potential niche market," Lombard said. "With more New Mexico growers interested in hops, we are now hoping to provide a forum for discussion on production and marketing realities so they can decide if this is a crop they would like to include in their agricultural operation."

For more information email Lombard at klombard@nmsu.edu or call NMSU-ASC Farmington at 505-960-7757. Learn more about NMSU's hops variety trail at the Farmington agricultural science center at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZRIOJy37KP0