Monday, January 11, 2010


As most folks know, one of Franklin County's bygone agricultural crops is hops (used mostly in the brewing of beer).  New York State was the predominant supplier of domestic hops from 1840 through the turn of the century, when the bulk of American hops production moved to the Pacific Northwest.  The northern portion of Franklin County is well-suited for hops cultivation, and the county was well-known for its large yield and high quality hops.  In 1880, Franklin County produced over 1 million pounds. 

Harvest-time (late August/early September) brought a few days of good wages for the hop-pickers and into the local economy.  Hops are grown on vines, which need to be twined around a pole or line.  At harvest time, the poles were uprooted or the vertical lines cut from their overhead stringers and the long vines laid across a large wood hop box, where the buds were plucked from the vines.  Large bags of hops were then taken to the drying kiln -- a large barn with a ventilated roof and stoves on the lower level and an upper drying floor.   The dried hops were gathered into bales and purchased by hop-brokers to be taken by railroad (after 1850) to New York City and other locations.

Image from the "Franklin Historical Review," Vol. 12 (1973)

Commercial hop production was an exceptionally speculative business, with wide fluctuations in price per pound.  The local newspapers reported on anticipated crop yield, local and state prices per pound, and how the overseas market would affect the domestic market.  The Sept. 11, 1885 Franklin Gazette column read:

click to enlarge

The "Hop Gossip" column in the Malone Palladium of Aug. 24, 1893 commented on the hop crops of other New York counties, Germany, and England, and reported instances of blight, pests and rainy weather which all affected yield and, therefore, prices.  The column goes on to say:

The speculative nature of the business, blight, Prohibition and the lack of laborers all contributed to the decline of hop cultivation in Franklin County.  The last commercial crop was grown in 1965 by Earl Looker whose farm was near Whippleville.

Some interesting resources:
-  Farmer's Museum blog post on Hops in the Pharmacy
"Growing Hops in New England" by Dr. Leonard Perry, Plant and Soil Science Dept. University of Vermont
"A Search for Economic Alternatives:  Hops in Franklin County, New York During the Nineteenth Century" by  Thomas A. Rumney, Professor of Geography, Plattsburgh State University
-  Adirondack Almanack blog post on hops

No comments:

Post a Comment