I have been working at Hop Head Farms for about a month now. Of the 4 internships/harvest jobs that I have done so far (Cornell Orchards, Au Bon Climat/Qupe, Peckham’s Cider, and Bin to Bottle) this one blows them all out of the water. No offense meant to all the other internships as I learned a ton from each of them, but this internship has forced me to pull on my knowledge from Cornell, adapt it not only to a new climate but to a new crop as well. I think that stems directly from the hopyard manager being young, from the V&E program at Cornell and understands that as students who are going to enter the “real world” next year need to understand that we need to know how management runs things. With such a young management group and company there is also room for growth and improvement which everyone seems to embrace because the company is still very much in start-up phase so processes are still being smoothed out. On to what I have actually learned!
Week 1 was a lot of training. Prior to that week the plants had been trimmed to remove any premature weak growth to ensure that the bines that are trained up the string are strong and fruitful. Training involves twining 2-3 shoots (for <1 year plants) and 4-5 shoots (for >1 year plants) clockwise around a coconut fiber string that is strung at the top of the trellis and punched into the ground within several inches of the crown (the perennial section of the plant).
There has also been a lot of pest scouting. Thanks to Greg Loeb, Andrew Landers, and Wayne Wilcox for Grape Pest Management, without that course I would have absolutely no idea what I was looking for or how to go about understanding that just because insects are present doesn’t mean they have reached a level that is economically unsustainable. Potato Leaf Hoppers, aphids, two spotted spider mites are the major insect pests, powdery and downy mildew are the major pathogens that I have seen in the hop yards.