Hop farmers make improvements for clean water

More hop growers are earning Salmon-Safe certifications.

By Gail Oberst

For the Capital Press

Published on April 13, 2017 12:54PM

Blake Crosby uses solar power, wind turbines and reduced pesticides on his Salmon-Safe hop farm.

Gail Oberst/For the Capital Press

Blake Crosby uses solar power, wind turbines and reduced pesticides on his Salmon-Safe hop farm.

Salmon-Safe, a nonprofit organization that sets standards for best practices has certified a growing number of hops growers in the region.

Since 2012, Alluvial, Sodbuster, Annen Brothers, Goshie and Crosby hop farms in Oregon have joined the ranks of the certified, following a growing demand from craft breweries for eco-friendly ingredients.

In Washington, Roy Farms, Green Acre Farms, BT Loftus Ranches, Cowiche Canyon Britt Farm and Perrault Farms are certified. In British Columbia, Hooh Hops and Left Fields are certified, and so is the Sierra Nevada Estate Hop Farm in California.

Why target hop growers in the effort to improve Northwest waters? The Willamette and Yakima valleys, home to 90 percent of U.S. hops, are also key watersheds for wild salmon, according to Dan Kent of Salmon-Safe. A farm can earn certification using various methods to reduce its impact on the watershed. Among those strategies: Reducing pesticides that are harmful to fish and wildlife, restoring stream buffers, reducing irrigation water use, creating areas for native plants, and ensuring that there is no runoff or erosion. Certification is often in conjunction with organic certification or other whole-farm plans.

And, apparently, the market is demanding fish-friendly ingredients. Among breweries now using hops from Salmon-Safe certified farms are Deschutes, Full Sail, Hopworks Urban, New Belgium, Sierra Nevada, Widmer, Worthy Brewing and many others.

In 2015, Hopworks Urban Brewery in Portland took the concept one step further, revised its wastewater treatment, and earned Salmon-Safe certification for its entire brewery.

Salmon-Safe innovations on the farm vary. Annen Brothers, for example, installed an updated composting system that keeps rotting vines and leaves from washing into nearby streams, and stores cleaned-up water for reuse.

Sodbuster Farms uses drip irrigation and has reformulated chemical applications to its 900 acres of hops, halting runoff into the nearby Willamette River. Sodbuster President Doug Weathers said he applies the same regimen to all of the 1,200 acres of hazelnuts and grass seed on his farm, earning the farm Wilbur-Ellis’ Technology Grower of the Year award.

Salmon-Safe projects on Crosby Hop Farm added to its credentials as a B Corporation, a designation for companies that have a positive impact on society and the environment. Solar panels and wind turbines power cold storage for Crosby’s T-90 hop pellets. Reduced pesticide use and expanded plantings for pollinators and along streams improved water quality.

Hops are not the only operations looking to meet Salmon-Safe standards. More than 85,000 acres on nearly 500 farms on the West Coast have been certified in the past 20 years.

For more information about Salmon-Safe, visit the web page at www.salmonsafe.org, or call the Portland office, 503-232-3750.


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