Hop­ping About in Tas­man /

The boom of com­mer­cial hop gar­dens in Tas­man in re­cent years has meant chang­ing vis­tas in this area, es­pe­cially on a drive past Wakefield and Fox­hill, around the Moutere and Motueka area and out Ta­paw­era, Tad­mor way.

Latitude Magazine - - CONTENTS - WORDS Janet Har t

The chang­ing land­scape of Tas­man

Not so long ago in this area, you would see dairy cows, sheep and beef farms, boy­sen­ber­ries, rasp­ber­ries, black­cur­rants and ap­ple and pear or­chards; now tracts of this land are forested in five-me­tre poles. Visit in Jan­uary and you’ll see hop bines spi­ralling clock­wise, shoot­ing up strings to a canopy of wires. Come in Fe­bru­ary or March and you’ll see bines be­ing stripped down at har­vest time.

This boom in com­mer­cial hop gar­dens is in re­sponse to an ex­plo­sion of craft brew­ing, es­pe­cially in the USA. But in fact hops have grown in Tas­man since the early days, as charm­ing, di­lap­i­dated oast houses that dot the land­scape tell.

The first hop gar­dens, planted by English and Ger­man set­tlers, sprang up in the Nel­son Tas­man area mid-19th cen­tury and some of those early gar­dens are still in hops. Take The Pines prop­erty at Ri­waka where I meet Andy and Julie Drum­mond and their son Matt, a sixth-gen­er­a­tion hop grower.

Matt’s an­ces­tors planted their small plot of English hops in the late 1870s. ‘In 1883 hop mer­chants were buy­ing hops for two shillings and six­pence per pound of hops, this be­ing a record price for those days,’ Andy tells me.

Andy says his fa­ther was still pick­ing hops by hand in the early 1960s and got his first hop ma­chine in 1964. Andy and Matt show me their re­cently pur­chased Ger­man WOLF 315 hop-pick­ing ma­chine, in the shed. ‘It’ll be a labour-sav­ing device – an in­vest­ment in a 50-year fu­ture,’ Andy tells me. These days the fam­ily har­vests 18 ha of hops.

Once the ma­chine sep­a­rates the cones from the bine, the cones are kiln-dried and pressed, and like turbo-charged wool bales – weigh­ing an aver­age of 125 ki­los each – they’re then trucked to Ap­pleby near Rich­mond. And it’s here that New Zealand Hops Ltd takes over the Drum­mond’s hop crop.

New Zealand Hops is a grower co-op­er­a­tive. To­day it pro­vides re­search and pro­cesses, pack­ages and dis­patches its share­holder grow­ers’ hop cones, most of which are pro­cessed into pel­lets. New Zealand Hops has long been in the hop busi­ness, since 1939.

How­ever, over the last five to six years, Sup­ply Chain Man­ager Tim Tyler tells me, ‘New Zealand Hops has seen its grower share­hold­ers ex­pand from 16 to 28.’ The to­tal hectares for the New Zealand Hops Co-op, cur­rently go­ing into the 2020 crop, is 739 ha from those 28 share­hold­ers – their gar­dens all be­ing within a 40-kilo­me­tre ra­dius of the New Zealand Hops pro­duc­tion plant at Ap­pleby.

‘Eighty-five per cent of the pro­duc­tion goes over­seas,’ Tim con­tin­ues. Next year they ex­pect 90 per cent will be ex­ported.

‘We ex­port all over the world: USA is the big­gest, next is EU fol­lowed by Aus­tralia and Ja­pan.’

And in a spirit of op­ti­mism, last year, New Zealand Hops added an­other 30 per cent of floor area to their fac­tory, ‘to meet ex­ist­ing and fu­ture de­mand’. As well they pur­chased a new form, fill and seal pack­ag­ing ma­chine, ‘the largest one in the coun­try at the mo­ment’, Tim says.

Up un­til four years ago all Nel­son Tas­man hops went through New Zealand Hops. Then, in 2016 an in­de­pen­dent pur­chaser ar­rived in Tas­man and for 9.8 mil­lion, ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist Michael Robert Stone from the USA bought 120 ha

in Up­per Moutere’s Sun­rise Valley and set up Freestyle Hops. It is now mar­ket­ing, pro­cess­ing and dis­tribut­ing its own hops as pel­lets. I talk to CEO Dave Dun­bar, a qui­etly spo­ken Amer­i­can. ‘Things are pos­i­tive, I feel pretty good about the sit­u­a­tion,’ he says. ‘I’m ex­cited about work­ing with great brew­eries all over the world, ad­vanc­ing the ball in terms of re­search and pro­duc­ing ex­cit­ing aro­mas and flavours.

‘We ex­port 75 to 85 per cent of our hops and have cus­tomers all over the world – USA, UK, Europe…’ Dave says. Welling­ton Craft Brewer, Garage Project, is also one of their cus­tomers.

Vis­tas of the land change ev­ery six months. Take a drive up Sun­rise Valley in the sum­mer and look down on Freestyle Hops’ long nar­row strip of land, wall-to-wall car­peted in an el­e­vated green canopy of hops. Come in win­ter and ‘with the bare poles only show­ing, peo­ple ask what it is that’s grow­ing’, says An­nette Eg­gers, whose fam­ily owned the land.

An­nette’s Ger­man an­ces­tors first grew hops here in the late 19th cen­tury and apart from some ap­ples, black­cur­rants and sheep over the years, she says most of the land has been in hops.

Un­like 60 km south of Nel­son at Ta­paw­era, where Hop Revo­lu­tion’s shop gar­dens are stretch­ing along the valley to­wards Ko­hatu. In 2017 its 115 ha Ta­paw­era Hop Gar­den was es­tab­lished on land that had grown black­cur­rants, had farmed sheep and beef and had old tobacco kilns on it, hark­ing back to when tobacco had a place in the sun.

Hop Revo­lu­tion also built a huge 2,700-square-me­tre green shed, the in­side of which is on an in­dus­trial scale. Here, after the hop picker sep­a­rates the cone from bine, the cones are kiln-dried, pressed and baled then trucked to a Nel­son cool store. From there the hop cones are shipped to the USA in re­frig­er­ated con­tain­ers.

Later, out­side with Hop Revo­lu­tion’s Op­er­a­tions Man­ager Jono Trolove, we’re look­ing at the Ta­paw­era Hop Gar­den’s drip­per lines that Jono says are long enough to be stretched from Ta­paw­era to Christchur­ch, when we chance a cou­ple of MyFarm in­vestors from Christchur­ch, wan­der­ing around look­ing at where their dol­lars are hope­fully (sic) grow­ing.

Hop Revo­lu­tion is funded by a syn­di­cate of MyFarm in­vestors, who put in a min­i­mum of 100,000 each.

Hop Revo­lu­tion’s ex­pan­sion is cur­rently un­der­way, with

It’s said that on a per­fect day in De­cem­ber with the hu­mid­ity and heat needed, a hop bine can grow 300 mm a day.

a fur­ther 115–130 ha (closer to Ko­hatu) in de­vel­op­ment: the Wairua Hop Gar­den. This land was bought from Evan Baigent, who says he was a dairy farmer from the time he was in a bassinette. Over cof­fee at the nearby Ko­hatu Flat Rock Café, Jono and Evan talk about how Evan’s land was one of three dairy farms of the same size in the Ta­paw­era re­gion con­verted to hops in the last three years. Each farm car­ried 400 to 500 cows.

Re­mem­ber all the black­cur­rants along the Moutere High­way near Neu­dorf ? Here a 3 km stretch is now lined by hops. One of these gar­dens, Mac Hops, is an 82 ha block, con­verted only two years ago by the es­tab­lished hop-grow­ing McGlashen fam­ily. With their home hop gar­den in be­hind Motueka and har­vest­ing hops from a to­tal of 110 ha, Mac Hops Di­rec­tor Brent McGlashen tells me they’re New Zealand Hops’ largest hop sup­plier.

It’s said that on a per­fect day in De­cem­ber with the hu­mid­ity and heat needed, a hop bine can grow 300 mm a day. In its first year, a hop crown planted in Septem­ber will start shoot­ing in Oc­to­ber, and a half-sized crop can be har­vested in March. Andy Drum­mond said his fa­ther reck­oned he could hear the rustling of the hops grow­ing at night. To­day there must be some in Tas­man who hear hop gar­dens grow­ing in their sleep.

And although Tas­man’s long been New Zealand’s main hop provider and ticks all the boxes for what’s re­quired for con­sis­tent com­mer­cial pro­duc­tion at 41 de­grees lat­i­tude, it still begs the ques­tion, what makes Tas­man so spe­cial for this growth of com­mer­cial hop gar­dens at present?

Tas­man, it just seems, hits the sweet spot, meet­ing an in­sa­tiable thirst for craft beer.

Cameron Ealam of Holm­dale Farm is one of NZ Hops Ltd's new­est grow­ers.

ABOVE / Three gen­er­a­tions. Matt, Andy and Matthew Drum­mond of The Pines at Ri­waka with their new hop picker. The Pines won New Zealand Hop Ltd's 2019 Hop Farm of the Year Award.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.