[Editor’s Note: This article was written before Hurricane Irma’s impact]
There isn’t much more satisfying than being able to prove someone or something wrong. To that point, Florida growers probably know this kind of gratification more than most — if not all — of their farming counterparts. Plain and simple, there isn’t much we can’t grow here.
This has a lot to do with a willingness to put much on the line, including time, reputation, and (gulp) money. Despite the risk factors, there are scores of bold growers and researchers who are taking our industry beyond previously perceived crop viability boundaries to places once figured forbidden. I tip my hat to you. Your work is groundbreaking, which is lucky for all of us.
Without a doubt, the dynamics of alternative crops are many, but the profit potential has universal appeal. Seriously, who doesn’t want to be on the leading edge of a new niche?
Florida blueberries are certainly a success story in this regard. The industry in the Sunshine State has matured, yes, but there is still lots of blue water to be explored.
I’d like to think the same could be in store for the alternative crop highlighted in Florida Grower® magazine’s October issue cover story — hops.
For Florida, hops is a crop that clearly defies the odds for anyone that ever entertained the idea of growing it here commercially. With that said, let’s raise a toast to the scientists and ambitious growers who are — so far — proving skeptics (and there are many) wrong.
Hops is unlike any crop I’ve ever covered before. I can’t think of another crop that has its own cult following, complete with a rock & roll attitude. The time is right to see what’s truly brewing.
On the surface, there appears to be an undeniable demand for local hops from craft brewers and plenty of thirsty patrons. At this point, the call can only be answered in very small batches. The growers who have hopped on the wagon early are setting market standards. Backtracking to blueberries, there are similarities here. But for now, the cup runneth over with unknowns.
Can Florida hops emerge as a legitimate local farming enterprise? Like all alternative crop quests, time will tell. At the moment, I’m having fun learning about all the possibilities. Others are, too. The passion is there. I can’t wait to see how it plays out.