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Sustainable Agriculture Tour

by | Oct 18, 2019

Yakima Chief Hops played tour guide out at Perrault Farms to 15 members of the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform from around the globe. Read more about how Yakima Chief Hops encourages advancement in sustainable agricultural practices and how farms such as Perrault’s are helping pave the way.

How does one manage to communicate the entire story of hops from propagation to pint in only a few hours? It is a difficult task, but we were up for the challenge!

Yakima Chief Hops was privileged to host members of the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (SAI) in our backyard in early October for a Farm Sustainability Assessment training event. SAI is an organization pioneering sustainable agriculture to protect the environment, farmers, employees, and communities. Through our partnership with SAI, YCH is looking to advance sustainable farming practices throughout our supply chain with implementation of quantifying greenhouse gas emissions at the farm level through programs such as the Cool Farm Tool, among other initiatives such as the Farm Sustainability Assessment. With many of our family farms being passed down from generation to generation, sustainable farming practices are imperative to ensuring the long-term health of their farms, and we were very excited to show SAI members around Hop Country! 

 

For our SAI members, the morning started with a bus ride from Seattle over the cascades into the lower valley, where they were greeted at Perrault Farms.  One by one members exited the confines of the bus and stepped directly into one of Perrault’s Certified Organic hop yards. Jeff Perrault, Vice President of Resources and Compliance, led the charge through the recently harvested yard where discussions emerged revolving around organic farming, soil health, best management practices, and hop 101 talks.

With the sun shining overhead, and Mount Adams in the background, it made the perfect day for a tour. For many of the members, this was their first time out to the Pacific Northwest, let alone their first time on a hop farm. Members represented various agricultural organizations and consultant agencies including: Ocean Spray, Bunge, Coca-Cola, Northwest Ingredients, Earthworm Foundation, Berryhill Foods, Groupe Ageco, Superharvest, Almond Board of California, and Ingredion.

 

Everyone was genuinely curious about the history of the hop industry in the Yakima Valley and the global presence of hops in today’s marketplace. Although no bines remained at Perrault Farms, an occasional cone or two was unearthed in the field. With a little help from the Perrault K-9 unit (Penny & Otter) we were able to sniff a few out to pass around and let the members enjoy some rubbing and sniffing.

After getting everyone’s boots dirty, we made the trek over to the tap room where Tiffany Pitra, YCH’s Hop Sensory Coordinator, had set up a sensory panel for everyone. From Willamette® to Pahto™, Tiffany helped tell the story of how the Hop Breeding Company has been revolutionary on the sustainability forefront in producing high-yielding and disease-resistant varieties. Sustainability can have many different definitions, however, in hop-farming sustainability is most often discussed in terms of efficiency. Through the HBC program, varieties are born that produce higher yield that require less natural resource inputs, while still producing increased aroma and an alpha-packed cone.

There was a constant buzz & energy surrounding the sensory table with people moving from station to station smelling the different varieties. The facial expressions were priceless and the sensory notes were very detailed. With hands stained yellow from the lupulin glands, members enjoyed getting a “hands-on” learning experience with hops. Five varieties were on display and 15 people were smiling from ear to ear, I would say it was a successful session!

Following the farm visit, everyone was shuttled back to Yakima to enjoy some food and additional conversation. It was unfortunate that Harvest had ended because all members were interested in seeing the processing at the farm. However, everyone was in luck. Being that this was my first Harvest, I was the bright-eyed and bushy tailed guy out in the fields capturing thousands of photographs during the entire season. So, I was able to pass my phone around and provide the group a glimpse of the Harvest events that transpired during the previous weeks. 

During lunch I was able to talk to others looking to improve their sustainability strongholds within their own organizations. Discussions ranged from carbon footprint data collection methodologies, such as the Carbon Disclosure Project, and the advancement of organic farming utilizing some conventional farming techniques. Many of the members have undergone the rigorous FSA assessment, which is a highly effective multi-purpose tool that aims to help farmers and food & drink companies around the world produce, sell and source more and more sustainably grown agricultural products. YCH introduced the FSA tool in 2016 and assessed four of our family farms in the benchmarking process. It was extremely beneficial to receive direct feedback from other organizations on their experiences with the tool and sustainable farming practices in general. YCH looks to continue our involvement with FSA assessments and promoting continuous improvement in sustainable agriculture!

Due to time constraints, the members had to depart for Seattle after lunch. All in all, it was a very quick trip, but a lot of useful information was shared among different agricultural entities around the world. Next time SAI is in town they have promised to stay for a week!