Farmer Brewer Conference
Last weekend, we attended the Farmer-Brewer Conference in Amherst put on by Valley Malt. The program brought together brewers, maltsters, farmers, home-brewers and those just considering jumping into the fray.
One of the speakers was Steve Miller, from Cornell Cooperative Extension and the leader of the movement to return hop growing to New York State. The hop plants we purchased last year were through Mr. Miller's program at Cornell. Hop production is expanding in New York State, although we have a long way to go to meet the upcoming demand.
Other speakers included brewers from Wormtown Brewery and High Horse Brewery in Massachussets. Nano-breweries and nano-distilleries are popping up left and right, and most of those already engaged in the business say they cannot make their products fast enough. This is encouraging to hear, as small-batch brewers and distillers form close relationships with local farmers growing their grain and hops and maltsters who process the grain for them. The fact that all this is getting done on the local level, like it did over 100 years ago, benefits small local agrarian communities, many of which have struggled to retain jobs and residents in the last few decades.
The most encouraging sign from the Conference - the number of young people interested in the farming end of the business. Yes, young people. While the median age of farmers in the United States is currently increasing, these young people may turn the tide. Many of them are interested in sustainable, organic farming with vertical integration into the local community via CSA shares, food co-ops and self-owned outlets for their products. In New York State, with the passage of the Farm Brewery Bill, there will be a huge demand for these crops.
We met some local folks getting into brewing and distilling, as well. It's becoming quite the community, and we hope everyone will work together to promote this fledgling industry.