Hop Farms Looks to the Future, with a Nod to the Past

Main pic

Mike Holmes and Lizzy Delaney at their hops farm in the Squamish Valley. Photo: DAVID FOURNIER

By Jessica Butler
Published: Oct 11, 2014

Growing hops for export to Europe was the first real industry established by the Squamish Valley settlers in the early 1890s. Now, more than a hundred years later, a young couple is tipping their hat to those pioneer entrepreneurs by naming their company after the largest operations of that time.

Squamish Valley Hop Company of the yore was located in Brackendale’s Eagle Run subdivision. The largest of the ten hop-growing farms, it was established by a syndicate of leading Vancouver businessmen.

The new Squamish Valley Hop Company, located in the Squamish Valley, is being established by Mike Holmes and Lizzy Delaney. Now, in its first year of operation, it’s focused on clearing the land, building the trellis systems and building the required infrastructure for their business.

“It’s challenging technically since there is a lot cable, a lot of poles and some engineering and it’s expensive,” said Mike Holmes.

The company now plans to increase their one acreage of organic hops to five acres by next year.

Holmes, a geologist and Delaney, an urban planner by professions, explains this farm as a giant science experiment. Books, manuals and internet research have been one of their main resources to set it up. Any spare time they find is usually spent on their friend’s hop farm in Lillooet.

Mike’s family was a big influence in his decision to get into hop farming. They grew an acre of hops back in Ontario and he learned hands on skills from them.

“I wanted to farm and it seemed like an interesting crop to grow just because it’s technically more challenging than a lot of other crops.”

The market and a cultural push for localization has also influenced the crop they wanted to farm. The craft beer sector has been booming with more than 80 breweries having opened their doors in BC in the last year.

“We saw how good the market was for craft beers and how there is a shortage for hops,” said Holmes.

With their business model focused on ‘doing everything locally’, the history of hops in the area in the late 1800’s has also played a huge role in their model.

By 1894, about ten hop farms were established in Squamish, which created opportunity for seasonal employment for the First Nations. The hops in Squamish were top grade and were shipped to Vancouver in bales wrapped in Burlap, then shipped to Britain where they were used to make beer.

An improved valley wagon road and steamship connections, and a post office all came about with the new hops industry.

Both Holmes and his partner/co-owner Lizzy Delaney would like to bring this history back by creating a public farm in the future where people can visit and learn about hops and the history around it.

“Not a lot of people have seen hop farms and its pretty unique,” said Delaney

“We just want people to connect too what they are drinking and to their hop roots.” 

Already expecting to have hops next year to sell and with winter coming soon, both Holmes and Delaney want to focus their time on making relationships with breweries, especially local breweries. Getting the picking machine is one of their goals for the future.

“Our friends have been amazing help, but we can’t even imagine how we are going to pick 960 hop plants, and this is only in our first acre,” Holmes said.

 –With files from Gagandeep Ghuman and Eric Andersen

Comments

  1. Jon S. says:

    Good for them. We need a diverse economy that includes resources, industry, agriculture and tourism.

  2. Dave Colwell says:

    Good job. Congrats. Good luck!