As local craft breweries have become the toast of the town in British Columbia, many hop farmers say the success has been tough to swallow.
Hop farmers say they’ve been forced to shut down a third of their crops because of a lack of demand. They blame a lack of support from local breweries and the provincial government.
“Despite the word ‘local’ being promoted by both brewers and government through buy-local programs it’s not actually happening,” said Dwayne Stewart, General Manager at the BC Hops Company.
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Stewart says local farmers won’t survive unless the government introduces new incentives for local breweries to make the switch, similar to those found in the wine industry.
While some local breweries turn to area farms for unique varieties of hops, most still by the bulk of the ingredient from the United States or Europe.
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“We want to see local breweries support the local hop farmers in a way that’s greater than they’ve done before,” Stewart said.
Making matters worse, the one event meant to promote the use of homegrown crops in craft beer has been suspended over what organizers call a technicality.
The BC Hop Fest found out last year that it was unable to get a “farm-use” permit because it is not selling hops directly to attendees.
Despite attempts this year to explain that the beer sold at the event is made from hops at the farm, an exception was not granted.
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“Last year, the city was informed by the Ministry of Agriculture that the BC Hop Festival would need to apply to the Ministry for a ‘non-farm use’ permit for their event,” the City of Abbotsford offered in a statement.
“The city will provide BC Hop Festival with an event permit once they have received their ‘non-farm use’ approval from the Ministry of Agriculture.”
Global News contacted the Provincial Agricultural Land Commission for comment. None of our requests were answered by deadline.
The Ministry of Agriculture did point to funding programs available for local farmers and producers, but also encouraged hop farmers to work with brewers to meet their needs.
“There hasn’t been a real financial incentive for the brewers to switch their suppliers,” said Stewart. “There needs to be some incentives put in place to help that marketplace kick off.”
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BC Craft Brewers Guild’s Executive Director Ken Beattie said his organization was reviewing the BC Hop Fest’s concerns, but no one was made available for an interview.
While no comment was offered regarding the hardships of local hop farmers, the BC Craft Brewers Guild did offer a statement addressing the cancelled BC Hop Fest.
“The BC Craft Brewers Guild has worked with BC Hop Growers for many years and we are sorry to hear the event is suspended this year,” reads the statement.
“We hope to work closely with the industry and with government to support our local farmers and ensure a successful event in the future.”