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Local News

September 26, 2013

Foothills hosts talk on hops' potential

One of Foothills Performing Arts and Civic Center’s lecture rooms was full Wednesday as Dr. Carlena Ficano, professor of economics at Hartwick College, gave a presentation on the possible profitability of local hops production of hops, one of the main ingredients in beer.

The area was one of the biggest producers of hops around in 1808, but had died out by 1890 because of disease and a lack of knowledge on hop production.

But Ficano and The Greater Oneonta Economic Development Council (GO-EDC) think hops can work again for Oneonta and the surrounding area. Ficano on Wednesday presented a final report of a hops feasibility study that she and a Hartwick college student intern, Dawn Rivers, recently finished at the request of GO-EDC. The presentation explained the pros and cons of hops growing in layman’s terms.

According to Ficano and others, there’s potential in hops production in the region. In fact, they’re already being grown in the Finger Lakes region and even in Otsego County.

Ficano said one-third of U.S. hops production is from the west coast, notably Washington state, Oregon and Idaho on large commercial farms. But hops production can be fruitful and successful even on small farms; Ficano said a single full-time farmer and processor of hops from five acres of land can yield an annual income of $48,000.

Ficano said the demand to justify growing hops in the area is there because the craft-beer industry is growing quickly. Craft brewers — breweries that produce less than 6 million barrels a year — are increasingly interested in New York hops because of their high quality.

There are approximately 7,498 acres of idle farm land in Otsego County, and the climate and soil are suitable for growing hops. There has also been some initiative from state government through the New York State Farm Brewery Law, which allows for on- and off-site sale at reduced cost to breweries if their ingredients are grown in New York.

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