By Staci Wallace
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Working with hops at Crosby Hop Farm, one can’t help but be inspired by the way the baby shoots push through the soil every spring and then reach for the sky all summer. As the shoots unfurl into leaves and climb the twine, coiling clockwise up the 18-foot trellis, watching a hop yard’s Herculean growth never gets old. To witness hops transform through the power of the sun into golden beads of lupulin loveliness every year is to understand the true meaning of solar power.
Drawing on this inspiration, we committed to our own on-farm solar array, which generates 57.6 kilowatts supplying around 30 percent of the farm’s energy needs. The rest is offset through Portland General Electric’s Green Source and Clean Wind programs. After starting down the path to solar, we realized that relying on the sun’s rays to grow was more challenging for us than it was for the hops. But Crosby plans to gradually expand our photovoltaic system until it supplies all of our energy.
Sustainability at Crosby doesn’t stop there. As a Certified B Corporation, the farm launched a zero-waste initiative and works to enhance biodiversity. In addition to avoiding or offsetting pollution and greenhouse gases to reduce our carbon footprint, our renewable energy program is a tool to enhance our relationship with the community. Nestled between a lush Nugget hop yard and xeriscaped berm, the solar array is a great conversation piece on farm tours. We especially enjoy educating middle school students about sustainable farming and business practices every year through the Adopt a Farmer program.
Embracing core values like sustainability and community keeps us in good company. Certified B Corps must continuously discover new ways to collaborate and use business as a force for good. One example of that is our partnership with Salmon-Safe. All Crosby-grown hops are Salmon-Safe certified, which enhances the quality of the hops as well as watershed beauty and vitality.
Here in the Willamette Valley, we are blessed with rich, fertile soils and an abundance of water. As good stewards of that land, the farm features 30 acres of undisturbed riparian habitat that is home to an array of native wildlife. Crosby has expanded the biodiversity around the farm by creating native habitat restoration sites and pollinator gardens that are expanded annually.
Much like the thriving native species that are a reflection of the Willamette Valley’s unique character, Crosby hops are an expression of the land that sustains their growth year after year. For example, the floral, tropical quality imparted on many varieties is Oregon putting its stamp on the crop. We’re especially excited to see how the region and its terroir will affect the newest variety we’ve planted: Comet! We can’t wait to hear the Willamette Valley’s take on this classic that’s making a comeback and known for its “wild American” aroma. Look for the Salmon-Safe certified, Crosby-grown Comet in a craft brew near you in 2018.
As the quality and sustainability manager at Crosby Hop Farm, Staci loves working with hops both in the lab and in the field. When she's not working, she and her two young sons enjoy exploring the great city of Portland and its environs through hiking, SUPing and camping.