Brian Pearson, a horticulturist from the University of Florida, started a research to find out possible ways to grow fresh hops and other types of vining plants in the state. Pearson concluded that it is possible to grow hops in Florida, which could mean a new cash crop that could help not only the state but the entire country.
This investigation started three years ago when Pearson planted rare seeds of hop used in beer and took care of the flowers in a wooden shed. A product of consistency, the shed eventually became hundreds of plants that were not ‘able’ to grow in Florida. However, the first results were not the best outcome possible, notes Brian Pearson. Even when the plants were growing, they were not edible due to bad smell and taste. Horticulturists and biology specialists consider this a typical characteristic of plants growing for the first time in a different environment.
The undesired attributes of hop crops are due to forced climate conditions that are not similar to its natural environment. After a year struggling with the weather conditions the plants eventually started smelling better and tasting better. The result: A large crop of edible and attractive hops.
The beer-brewing industry in America is rising, the demand of brew across the country is considerably increasing since there are more and more breweries every day. The hops production in the U.S. is mostly limited to Washington and Northwest states, where they grow naturally, however, a state like Florida working on creating a significant hop production industry could help the beers’ manufacturers grow even more and supply this demand.
Initially, Florida was considered a state without proper climate conditions to grow hops due to the level of hotness in its air, which is why most hops’ fields are located in European countries with cooler climates and the Northwest of the United States. But the research conducted by Brian Pearson proved that Florida could grow hops even with its different climate conditions. This could mean a significant change in cash crops.
The American industry demands hops more than most horticulturists could imagine. In 2015, Florida was the state with the highest amount of craft breweries opening. Once it was known that Pearson successfully grew hops in Florida, he received hundreds of phone calls from small and medium brewers to buy them.
Joe Winiarksi, the owner of a small farm and brewery near Pearson’s, is also brewing with locally grown hops. Winiarksi reached Pearson to receive training and advice and eventually started his crop that now includes hop vines of Cascade, Chinook and other types he offers to local brewers.
Local brewers, of course, are interested in this crops. To the marketing director of Swamp Head Brewery, any agricultural supplies they can get close to home will always be the first choice. Even when hop farming has not been analyzed yet as a profitable industry since it’s still a small initiative, it may be the option with the highest potential to contrast the economic decline produces to the current status of the citrus industry.
The state of the citrus industry in Florida
The last decade has been a rough time for Florida’s citrus harvest. A bacterial disease devastating to citrus trees affected most of the citrus’ fields in the State, creating an environment of tension and fear among actors linked to the citrus industry. The bacterial diseases threatening oranges are the result of an Asian bug that scientists haven’t found a way to stop.
The citrus crop has been the major industry in Florida for a long time. In 2005, more than 140 million boxes of 90 pounds of fruit each were produced, but the statistical analysis considers that if this bacteria continues to spread its symptoms across the fields, by 2026 the production could drop to 27 million, in a real scenario. This estimation puts Florida in a risky situation, making it lose relevance and economic impact on the country.
The level of production also affects prices for concentrated orange juice and other citrus’ linked products, which profoundly affects major industries like Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo Inc, who are now facing a considerable increase in the price of agricultural supplies for several of its products.
The demand for orange juice has fallen for several reasons. Since the crisis has become more and more severe, big industries have reached for alternative supplies, consumers’ ideas about the nutritional content of the product are changing the way they pick products, and the rise of competing foods is also affecting the citrus market.
Peaches, blueberries and now hops are providing new hope to Florida to regain economic relevance and make their markets dynamic again.
Source: ABC News