The Summer Of 2016 Rogue Farms Crop Report
YOU SAY YOU WANT A REVOLUTION
Come to Rogue Farms this summer and the Revolution will be to your right.
On the south side of Wigrich Road are some of the biggest changes in the history of the farm.
Let’s start with our two acres of Prickless Marionberries. Planted last spring, they’re bursting with berries we’ll pick for the first time this year. We added an acre of cucumbers. This crop started in the Revolution Garden and did so well we moved it into the fields this spring.
If that doesn’t impress you, how about a new hopyard? Between the cucumbers and the marionberries, we’re planting two new varieties of hops on ten acres. You say you see an empty field? Just wait, it will soon be overflowing with newly planted hops.
Looking for our Dream Rye? We moved it across the Cascades to our farm in Tygh Valley where we planted 20 acres in April. We also doubled our acreage of Risk™ malting barley.
At Rogue Farms we’re a restless bunch, always looking for ways to improve the proprietary palate of flavors we grow for Rogue Ales, Spirits, Ciders and Sodas.
The Grow Your Own Revolution never stops.
THE NEW HOPS OF ROGUE FARMS
After eight years and eight varieties of hops, it was time for something new.
For 2016, we made more changes than usual to what we grow. But it didn’t feel like enough. It didn’t feel truly Revolutionary. Plus there was this ten-acre empty spot in the field. What would we plant there? More corn? More rye?
Our answer was hops. And not just any hops, it had to be hops we’ve never used before in a Rogue beer.
The first of our two new varieties is the Adair hop. Strong on alpha acids, some might be tempted to label this a bittering variety. But we also like Adair for its lemon, herbal and dill aromas. We’ll plant fives acres of Adair this summer.
Our other new variety is Keven. This hop is low in acids with more complex aromas ranging from lemon to cedar, pine, floral, pepper and green melon. We’ll plant five acres of Keven, too.
Together, Adair and Keven make up one of the biggest transformations of the proprietary palate of flavors we grow for Rogue Ales. Add them to our current eight varieties and Brewmaster John Maier has an infinite number of new recipes to experiment with and new styles of beer to craft.
He’s got two years to think about it, and we don’t mind waiting. Whatever John decides to create we know it will be world-class and unlike anything we’ve tasted before. They don’t call him “More Hops” for nothing.
Hops are unlike anything else we grow. You can’t drill seeds and if things don’t turn out, plant something different the following year.
Building a hopyard begins months before a single hop plant goes into the soil. The crop starts in a greenhouse as cuttings in small pots filled with bark dust. As they grow, we’ll move them into larger and larger pots, while gradually exposing them to the outdoors. This makes the transition from greenhouse to hopyard as smooth as possible.
Then there’s the matter of a trellis. Just one acre of hops requires 45 poles, 21 feet long, buried 3 feet deep and connected with miles of wire. Multiply that ten times for our new hopyard at Rogue Farms. Before you know it, you’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours.
Hops also need at least two growing seasons before they produce a harvestable crop. You don’t really know how things are going to turn out until it’s too late to turn back.
Growing hops is about making smart choices, taking risks and staying dedicated. Dare, Risk, Dream.
WHAT’S AN ADAIR AND WHO’S KEVEN?
The Adair hop we named for Camp Adair, a former Army Base in Polk County, the home of Rogue Farms in Independence.
During WWII, soldiers from Camp Adair worked as hop pickers during harvest to help bring in the crop during a period of severe labor shortages.
Thanks to them, thousands of acres of hops did not go to waste. Americans made many sacrifices during the war, but giving up beer was not one them.
Our second new hop variety is named for Keven Christensen, the hopyard manager at Rogue Farms.
Keven came to Oregon in 1977 on a visit and decided to stay. He’s been farming hops in the Willamette Valley ever since.
Keven says hops are unique and grow unlike any other plant. But the best thing about hops he says, “is that you can make beer out of them.”
SPRING AT ROGUE FARMS
The third warmest February on record brought an early spring to Rogue Farms. Our hop bines emerged the last week of the month, two weeks sooner than anyone expected.
The danger with an early spring is that Mother Nature can quickly change her mind. A warm day followed by a chilling frost can damage or kill young plants. Thankfully that never happened. The warm trend continued into March and April.
The unseasonably warm weather meant we had to get to our chores sooner, and get them done faster.
March found us in the hopyard, digging up and splitting rhizomes. This is the hop grower’s version of spring cleaning. Old and dying bines are removed, then replaced with healthy rhizomes we split from other parts of the hopyard. This is how we keep a hopyard productive for a century while growing plants that live 10-15 years.
By the end of the month we were stringing and staking the trellis, one of the biggest chores of the year. The job involves dozens of farmhands and several days of hard work.
To string and stake our 42 acres of hops requires 253 miles of string, cut into 63,637 sections. One end is tied to the trellis wires by workers riding high through the hopyard, while the other end is pushed deep into the soil by another crew with long poles and stakes.
That’s 63,637 knots and 63,637 stakes, all of the work done by hand.
But without it, we wouldn’t have a trellis and we wouldn’t have hops for our beer.
We had big plans for the Revolution Garden this spring and decided it was time to get serious about who we wanted to tend it. Our search led us to Stacia, a certified Master Gardener.
Stacia grew up on a family farm, where food came from the garden, not a grocery store.
As a little girl, she loved playing in the dirt, helping raise the vegetables that would end up on the dinner table. Growing and gardening runs deeps in her family tree.
Like everyone else on the farm, Stacia got an early start in the garden thanks to the warm spring.
Among her first chores was cleaning up the grounds, fixing the raised beds, and pulling 33,257 weeds in just the first week.
In March, she added new beds to our existing plantings of angelica, orris root, woodruff and coriander. Also on her to-do list for spring is planting sassafras, dwarf spruce and more juniper bushes.
The Revolution Garden is where we grow ingredients for our gins, sodas and ciders. But it’s also where we experiment with new crops and see how they do in the terroir of Rogue Farms.
One of those experiments is our first batch of strawberries. We planted four varieties to find out which one would make the best tasting cider.
Another of our experiments is making woodruff syrup for a Berliner Weisse. For our first harvest of the year, Brewer Danny Connors dropped by the garden to gather his own woodruff leaves, then cooked a test batch of syrup at home.
Brewing doesn’t get any more hands- on than that.
HONEY, WE’RE HOME!
Returning from their winter vacation in California, the Rogue Farms honeybees arrived just in time for one of the greatest shows on Earth.
The orchard was in full bloom, a glorious display of white and pink flowers on the apple, pear and plum trees. By the Revolution Garden, the flowering borage was bursting in beautiful purple petals.
With all this nectar waiting for them, we knew our honeybees would not go hungry. The season was off to an excellent start.
Our big chore this time of year is prepping the colonies for the spring nectar flow.
Honeybees are highly tuned in to the warming temperatures. The queen increases egg laying and the population of the colony starts to grow.
It’s a numbers game. The bees need thousands of new foragers and workers to gather the spring nectar, process it into honey, and put away the surplus for safekeeping. Our role is to give the honeybees their space. We add supers on top of the hives, extra boxes where they store the leftover honey. It’s like adding an attic to your house.
The supers also prevent swarming. When a hive is too cramped, about half of the bees will fly off in search of a new place to live. If we’re lucky, we’ll catch the swarm and put it back in one of our empty hives. If we’re unlucky, the swarm disappears, never to be seen again.
Most important, when we harvest this summer, we take only the surplus honey from the supers. The rest belongs to the bees.
As much as we love brewing our Honey Kolsch and Marionberry Braggot with their honey, it’s more important that the bees have enough for next winter. They eat first.
THE 2016 ROGUE FARMS PROPRIETARY PALATE
Beyond our original eight varieties of hops and Revolution Garden, here’s what else we’re growing at Rogue Farms in Independence, Oregon, in 2016:
Hop Acres Increase 13% in 2016
US hop growers are working hard to keep with the demand for more hops from craft brewers and will put another 6,000 acres into production this year, according to the Hop Growers Association. That brings US acreage to 51,275, the highest on record and an increase of 13% from last year. Rogue Farms’ share is .001 of total acreage.
Most of the new acres, 5,400, will be planted in the traditional growing states of Oregon, Washington and Idaho. The remaining 600 acres are scattered across some 20 other states. Aroma and dual hop varieties dominate the new plantings.
Honeybee Colonies Drop 9%
Beekeepers suffered another year of heavy losses, according to a pair of reports from the USDA. Commercial beekeepers lost anywhere from 39% to 44% of their colonies during the 12-month period that ended April 1st.
They were able to replace most, but not all of those lost colonies. During that time colony numbers fell from 2,849,500 colonies to 2,594,590 colonies. That’s a drop of 9%.
Annual losses have grown dramatically over the past decade for a number of reasons. But in these newest reports, the USDA puts the blame on varroa mites. The varroa mite is a parasite that feeds on adults and brood, making the bees sick or even killing them. The mites also spread diseases from one hive to another.
DROUGHT & WEATHER REPORT
One of the wettest winters ever was a lifesaver for Oregon, eliminating drought across much of the state and dramatically improving conditions everywhere else. Southwest Oregon was declared drought-free for the first time since 2013. At our farm in Independence, we were nine inches of rain above normal at the end of March.
Our fellow farmers in California aren’t nearly so fortunate. Drought conditions are expected to continue across most of the state for the next several months.
The bulk of winter precipitation fell during the cold months of December and January, with another dose of heavy rain and snow in early March. As snow piled up in the mountains, you could hear farmers across the state breathe a sigh of relief.
Early April snowpack was at normal levels across most of Oregon (the areas in green), and somewhat below normal in the northwest and southeast (the areas in yellow). Last year at that time we had the lowest snowpack on record.
Things turned around quickly as the second warmest April on record melted much of the snowpack and reduced it to well below normal levels. Still, no one was ringing any alarm bells about this year’s water supply. Most of the state’s reservoirs filled up nicely during April. But farmers who rely on groundwater for irrigation might run short this summer.
The El Niño that delivered all that wonderful rain and snow to Oregon this past winter is fading and is expected to disappear by fall. Forecasters say there’s 70% chance of a La Niña forming by autumn. Generally speaking, a La Niña means lots of rain and snow in Oregon. If that happens, we may put this drought behind us.
PLANT IT AND MAYBE THEY WON’T COME
We moved our field of Dream Rye from Independence to Tygh Valley this spring, planting 20 acres here in the rain shadow of Mt. Hood.
Although we’ve always been pleased with the quality of the crop, the change struck us as a good idea. Rye and barley prefer the same terroir: volcanic soils that drain well, a colder and drier winter than we get in the Willamette Valley, and hot sunny summers. The malting barley we grow here thrives in this terroir, and our Dream Rye should produce an even better harvest.
There’s also proximity. We floor malt our rye here in Tygh Valley at the Farmstead Malt House. So why not move the crop and save ourselves a 171-mile drive?
Then there’s the slugs. You may recall we didn’t have the best luck with field slugs in Independence. One year they ate five acres of rye we planted in the fall, another year they ate ten acres of a spring crop. Our batting average against the slugs needed to improve.
As far as we know Tygh Valley is a slug-free zone. Just say no to slugs!
RESPECT YOUR SOIL
We started the growing season with ambitious plans to increase our plantings of malting barley from 200 to 300 acres.
Things got off to a rough start last fall, when we seeded 200 acres of Risk™ winter barley in the driest conditions we’ve ever seen here at Rogue Farms. Just when we feared the entire crop was lost, rain in late November brought the fields to life. That was followed by heavy snowfall in December and by year’s end we knew our Risk™ barley was going to be okay.
The experience after living with four years of drought made us question our plans to plant the additional 100 acres of Dare™ malting barley this spring. Would we have enough water for the increased acres? Months would go by before we had the answer.
In the end, it came down to dirt.
Our field needed a break. Rather than seed our Dare™ barley we left those 100 acres fallow. A year off will restore the nutrients and moisture in the soil, and revive its fertility. This is a normal part of crop rotation, a practice that farmers have used for generations to keep the land healthy.
It means our plan to grow more malting barley at Rogue Farms is on hold for at least one year, possibly longer. It all depends on how much time the soil needs to recover.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned as farmers, it’s take care of your soil and it will take care of you.
Barley acres shrink 12% in 2016
US barley farmers are throttling back on acreage this year, telling the USDA they intend to plant 3,140,000 acres for the 2016 growing season. That’s down 12% from 2015 and the fourth smallest seeded acreage on record. Rogue Farms represents .00006 of this year’s plantings.
The reason is a large supply of leftover stocks from last year. Farmers, maltsters and others held 137 million bushels in inventory on March 1st, up 16% from the year before.
2016 US Barley Plantings
|Acres Planted||Change from 2015|
A TOUGH YEAR TO BE A FISHERMAN
Our hometown of Newport, Oregon, has seen more than its fair share of hard times. Like farmers, fishermen are at the mercy of Mother Nature. When she is kind, life is good. When she is not, it hurts our families, friends, neighbors and customers.
The combination of El Niño, warming water and a phenomenon called The Blob conspired to make this a particularly challenging year. Dungeness opened late, Pink Shrimp was put on hold, and the salmon harvest will be half of what it was last year.
This year’s Dungeness season opened January 4th, five weeks behind schedule. The season began strong with Oregon crabbers landing nearly 9.8 million pounds by the end of the month. But after January, catch sizes dropped and by mid-May landings totaled 13.7 million pounds. That number is unlikely to grow much now that we’re this far into the season.
What all this means is that 2016 will be another small harvest, the third one in a row. The silver lining is prices. With a season average price of $3.59 per pound at docks, Oregon crabbers have earned more than $49 million. That makes this the third most valuable harvest in ten years.
Like Dungeness Crab, Oregon’s Pink Shrimp season opened late, but for very different reasons.
The first delay was caused by price negotiations between shrimpers and processors that dragged on for weeks. Shrimpers expected a smaller harvest this year, which is typical following an El Niño winter, and thought prices should be higher to reflect that.
Once that was sorted out, shrimpers returned to the ocean only to find out that the supply of shrimp was actually pretty good, but the size of the shrimp was not. A lot of what they saw was too small to legally harvest. In early May, shrimpers briefly suspended fishing so that the shrimp would have time to grow bigger.
The West Coast salmon harvest will be less than half of what it was last year. All of the major rivers are experiencing reduced runs, but the situation is particularly dire for Coho from Puget Sound, Washington, and Chinook from the Klamath River in California.
Fishery officials decided it was best to curtail all fishing to conserve weak stocks. The biggest news was a decision to ban commercial fishing for Coho off northern Oregon and Washington.
Experts blame the ongoing drought in California and El Niño for creating unusually warm ocean temperatures that reduced the numbers of plankton, an important food source for salmon.
ROGUE SEAFOOD LANDINGS
|Dungeness Crab||13.7 million pounds of Dungeness were landed in Oregon by mid-May, signaling a smaller than usual harvest for 2016. Crabbers were helped by high dock prices of $3.59 per pound. So far, this year’s catch is worth $49.3 million.|
|Pink Shrimp||A dispute over pricing and small sized shrimp delayed Oregon’s Pink Shrimp harvest by two months. The previous five years of harvest were some of the biggest on record, averaging about 50 million pounds.|
|Albacore Tuna||The Albacore season traditionally begins in summer, when migrating schools of tuna show up along the Oregon coast. Landings over the past decade have averaged 9.5 million pounds.|
|Salmon||West Coast salmon fishermen are facing one of their toughest years ever, with all commercial fishing for coho closed off Northern Oregon and Washington. Overall, this year’s harvest will be half of what it was in 2015.|
|Yaquina Bay||The bay and river are closed to all fishing above head of tide. Cutthroat trout fishing resumes May 22nd. Bay crabbing has been slow this spring.|
WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS, GET YOUR ASS IN GEAR
To: Rogue Ales and Spirits
Date: Fri, Apr 15, 2016 at 1:48 PM
Subject: Moving beer
Guys, I thought you might get a kick out of this. We may never be your biggest account, but we do go to great lengths to move Rogue beer to the farthest reaches of Guatemala.
Join us! Stay overnight at the Rogue Bed ‘N’ Beer on the historic Bayfront of Newport, Oregon. To book a room call, 541- 961-0142.
For more information about Rogue Farms, visit RogueFarms.com. To schedule a tour, call Cher at 503-838-9813.