Exploring VA Wines, Wining & Dining

The Hops Farm

The governor of the commonwealth came to our little village of Lucketts the other day. My wife and I were among the 200 guests at the announcement of an exciting agricultural business that is starting up here right on route 15. The Lucketts Mill and Hop Farm received a grant from the State of Virginia to build a hops processing facility that will process the hops grown on their farm as well as the commercially grown hops from farms in a 50 mile radius. This operation, the largest by far in the mid-atlantic region, will greatly impact Loudoun’s agriculture community for the next generation, and that is a great thing.

Hops are grown on very tall trellises and are harvested in 20′ bines that have the hops combs and leaves attached. The first step of the process is to rake off all of the hops from the bine. The material is then sorted using screens and fans, which remove the leaves and leave behind the hops combs. The hops are then put into a drying space to reduce the moisture down to about 5%. The hops can then be frozen without turning to mush and having the acids break down. The timeliness of this process is critical to maintain the acids of the hops.

Having this processing facility in Loudoun is as important to our local businesses as, say, a local dairy is to dairy farmers.  Dairy farmers rely on a dairy cooperative to process and distribute their milk, so that their businesses can grow.  The lack of a processing facility means no growth.  For example, the Loudoun County dairy cooperative shut down a generation ago, and as a result, the farmers sold their herds and many of the farm lands converted to housing.

The Lucketts Mill and Hops Farm will create a huge economic opportunity for local farmers and landowners in the area. They will plant and grow hops, which will be processed at the mill and used by our growing community of local craft brewers. Currently we have eight craft breweries in Loudoun County alone that could use these hops. In the processed state, the hops can be used by brewers anywhere. As hops are not the only crop used to make beer, many predict a malting facility popping up next, encouraging the grains to be grown here as well.

So what does all this hop business have to do with wine?  Well, this all adds to the culture of agriculture that we have been working to build over the years. Keep the farms, retool them to grow high value crops that can be preserved and encourage entrepreneurs to make this work economically. Beer, wine, produce, local beef, eggs, honey and all of the other products and farm experiences add to the rural economy and the culture that ensues from being financially viable.  It’s a good life, it’s sustainable and it gives folks who live and work in the concrete jungle something to eat, drink and do. Rural and urban can live off each other; it is almost utopian.

Written by: Doug Fabbioli

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