In this month’s newsletter, we hear from Aaron Hendrikx from BackRoads Hops, near Parkhill, Ontario. You can learn more about his farm at https://backroadshops.com/
OHGA: When did you start growing?
Aaron Hendrikx: I started growing hops in 2017 with a 1 acre test yard.
OHGA: What varieties do you have, and how many acres?
Aaron Hendrikx: My big five right now are Triple Pearle, Chinook, Centennial, Cascade and Magnum. I have a few others that I am working on expanding including Ultra, Hallertau, Galena and Kent Golding. I also have a “wild” or “heritage” hop I am slowly expanding as well. I started with one acre and now have 10 acres of trellis with about 6.5 acres of it planted.
OHGA: Why did you get into the hops industry?
Aaron Hendrikx: Growing up on a cash crop farm I always had an interest in agriculture. When I finished University I knew I wanted to get into the agricultural industry in some way. After doing some research and visiting a few other hop farms I decided to grow an acre of hops in 2017 to see how I liked it and how well the plants would grow on my parent’s farm. The plants grew well and I really enjoyed the first year of growing the crop. Being involved in the craft beer industry also made for an exciting venture.
OHGA: How did you come up with your hopyard name?
Aaron Hendrikx: I am actually in the process of changing my hop yard name slightly to “Backroads Hops Farm.” I also own a specialty running shoe store with an in-store taproom that has 8 Ontario craft beer taps called Backroads Brews + Shoes. So with keeping some connection between the two businesses I decided to use Backroads for the hop yard as well. I have run literally thousands of kilometres on country backroads, so that is where the name “backroads” comes from.
OHGA: What is your favourite piece of equipment?
Aaron Hendrikx: My new Case IH 100N orchard tractor that I just got a couple of months! I have done everything in the hop yard in an open loader tractor for three years so the new tractor will make field work so much better next year!
OHGA: What is the most challenging part of your hop business, and how are you dealing with it?
Aaron Hendrikx: Selling the hops has been an overall challenge. A challenge for me has been not having enough time to get out there and market the hops since I also own Backroads Brews + Shoes that takes majority of my time. I now have a manager in the hop yard who will help a lot with marketing the hops and working on value added products too.
OHGA: Which pest/weed gives you the biggest headache, and how do you deal with it?
Aaron Hendrikx: While downy mildew is a known head ache for any Ontario hop yard, I find weed management and spider mites to be two other head aches. My new manager in the hop yard will be super helpful with spraying, discing and mowing in a more timely manner.
OHGA: How was this year’s crop?
Aaron Hendrikx: This year’s crop was pretty good. The weather was cooperative this year for healthy plants and the yield was good.
OHGA: What has been a big lesson learned?
Aaron Hendrikx: Make your rows wide enough so you can get a tractor down it! Don’t use the push-in triangle anchors because they will pull out when the plants are big. I have found the 4 foot twist in anchors to work great.
OHGA: What’s the one issue that you would like advice from other growers on?
Aaron Hendrikx: Weed management; what does your weed management program look like?