Fledgling NSW hop grower, Ryefield Hops, has lost all this seasons crop due to drought and the effects of bushfires, but the team are hopeful that with some support, they can get back on their feet.
Ryefield, which was founded in 2016, has invested significantly in its growth this season to support the craft beer market.
Expansion saw the construction of an additional 10 acres of hop field and a processing facility with mechanical harvester.
All-in-all costing well over $1 million,after being successful for a dollar for dollar Regional Jobs and Investment Grant.
The team are self-funded and have maintained their day jobs.
Co-owner Jade McManus said that the droughts and bushfires has put a halt on this years hopes of supplying greater quantities to the brewing industry.
“This year was our major expansion, we put months and months of time and a lot of money into it, and we won’t have a crop.
“We were undergoing this expansion to be able to provide the volume people need to use to have in their taproom for a long time rather than a one-off,” she explained.
“We won’t be making any collaboration beers, which means that progress we made within the craft beer market, well, we won’t be present in the craft beer market this year.
“Those beers that would normally come out with our hops aren’t there, we just need to make sure our presence in the industry [is maintained] and people don’t forget about our products.”
Despite the crop devastation, which cost them 50 per cent of the 3,000 rhizomes the farmers planted this season, the team will continue to forge ahead with their processing facility.
“We’ll be continuing to finish our processing facility, which includes the new mechanical picking machine. We’ll be the first small independent grower to import a harvesting machine which is awesome. It’s a massive milestone.”
McManus said that while the drought in the southeast region of NSW had caused a steady decline in the viability of its hops, the New Years’ bushfires accelerated it further wiping out any crop that was surviving the drought through the water we were purchasing to keep it alive.
“The bushfires are an ongoing process, a lot has happened and everyone is pretty tired and exhausted,” she explained.
“There’s been a small amount of rain but tomorrow’s going to be another over 33-degree day with northwest winds, so I feel that there is this idea that it’s done and dusted, but it’s very far from done.”
McManus explained that they had begun planting in spring last year in the hopes that expected rainfall events would occur.
“There were two decent rainfall events coming which we really needed, but both of those didn’t eventuate to anything.
“Effectively from that it’s been a slow demise of our crop. Hops can withstand some heat and hot periods, but that sustained, continual heat and hot winds over a long period of time, then the bushfires and then on top of that we’ve had really heavy smoke which has prevented photosynthesis.
“This season’s growth is severely reduced compared to a normal growing season, the crown development is significantly smaller than it normally would be and with the loss of plantings, it takes another year off our progress.”
To aid in its recovery, the farm has launched its Help a Hop fundraiser as it looks to ensure its short term survival, and brewers and homebrewers should get in touch with the team for any forward contract hop orders.
“We deliberated a lot about Help a Hop, if we qualified in terms of our situation. But after the bushfires and the fact we’ve got no crop, and that it’s not something that’s any way related to how we farm or why we farm or what we’ve done, it’s all out of our control.
“For us asking for help is always a hard thing to do, but as we don’t have product this season [we thought] Help a Hop might be a good way for people to secure a local hop supply in the future, a way that we can try and achieve that.”
She said that it would be amazing if the brewing industry could help the team achieve their goals.
“It would be really great if people could buy our product, but we don’t have one, so now its about getting back to a stage of being able to have a product.”
McManus said that any brewers interested in helping out with forward contracts to support the farm should email the team at [email protected], or get involved in the Help for Hop fundraiser. You can find more information on their website.