Growing hops and brewing beer in the high desert

Meriel Darzen
Thu, 04/27/2017 - 5:30pm

Good Earth Brewing and Smith Rock Hop Farm make the most of Terrebonne's Farmland

When Natalie Hoshaw and Clare Thompson moved to Central Oregon in 2013, one of the first new friends they made was Miles Wilhelm. Natalie and Clare, both health care professionals, found common ground with Miles, a digital modeler, over a love for good beer and a deep interest in farming. Natalie and Clare had just purchased a 19-acre farm in Terrebonne and were thinking about how to work their land, which came with 15-acres of water rights.  Several beers and robust discussions later and Smith Rock Hop Farm was founded.

Today, all three are farming hops at Smith Rock Hop Farm, where they grow Cascade and Centennial hops. The hops are harvested for use by local breweries including Worthy Brewing and Immersion Brewing in Bend, Three Creeks in Sisters, Wild Ride Brewing in Redmond, and Arches Brewing in far-flung Georgia. They are also used in beers created by Good Earth Brewing, a nano-brewery[1] managed by Miles and co-located on Natalie and Clare’s farm.

Is a brewery a farm use?

Oregon land use law limits the types of uses that are allowed on land zoned for farm use, otherwise known as Exclusive Farm Use (EFU) land. Breweries are not a specifically allowed on farmland, but they have been permitted in other parts of Oregon under certain ‘categories’ such as a commercial use in conjunction with farming or as a home occupation. Each of these categories limits the nature of the operation so that it is compatible with surrounding farm uses. Good Earth Brewing recently obtained land use approval from Deschutes County to operate the nano-brewery on the farm as a home occupation. A home occupation on farmland means that the business must be conducted by a person living on the property, can have no more than five employees, and cannot interfere with farm-based activities.

Good Earth’s nano-brewing operation is closely linked to the farm onsite. It uses the hops grown there, along with fruits and vegetables grown on a one-acre garden plot. The farm also includes grazing for 17 alpacas and 7 goats and another irrigated area with rotating crops (this year it may be planted with barley that will also be used in the beer). Miles, Natalie, and Clare currently have no plans to allow tasting or events on site, but plan to continue increasing their hop production and selling hops to local breweries. They look forward to releasing rare and special limited-edition beers available year-round. Cheers!

 

[1] A nano-brewery is a new term without an exact definition but the general consensus is that a nano-brewery produces three barrels or less per year.