The corn harvest isn’t for a while, but the hop harvest is taking place in mid-August.
Starke County happens to be home to a modest hop farm west of Hamlet. Starke Naked Hops, as the company is called, farms on about 2/3rd of an acre right now. Short-term plans call for expanding it to a full acre next year.
Hops are considered the main flavoring ingredient in beer. Chris Lawrence owns the farm with his brother. He says he started farming hops after a conversation about craft beer between the two.
“We both heard that Purdue University was putting on a hops seminar, so we went to that, and got full information and started researching it more and we thought we’d give it a shot and we started out slow and thought we’d go from there,” says Lawrence.
Hops take about three years to mature and Starke Naked Hops is currently in its second growing season.
Despite that, the company says they currently have a goal of supplying microbreweries in the local area with the hops they need. Hops are generally considered a flower and according to Lawrence, the moisture content of the hops is about 70-percent, allowing them to begin harvesting.
At Starke Naked Hops, they are currently farming two varieties: Chinook and Cascade.
“Right after we harvest them, we will check to quality of the hops to make sure there’s not too much leaf content in them and then we will have to put them in a dryer and dry them down to 10-percent, between eight and 10-percent,” says Lawrence.
Similar to corn, hops have can be subject to disease. Lawrence says they watch for changes in moisture and humidity that may lead to harmful infection.
The company is doing some equipment sharing with another farm in the area for the time being. The harvest in Starke County is expected to be completed next week.