When the last bushel of Rogue Farms Dare™ malting barley came in off the field, you could almost hear a collective sigh of relief across the farm in Tygh Valley.
This was our best barley growing season ever. We reaped, threshed and winnowed 1,063,521 pounds of Dare™ and Risk™ malting barley.
But it could just as easily gone the other way. In fact, that’s exactly what’s happening to our fellow farmers just east of here.
In Idaho and Montana, malting barley farmers are suffering from heavy rains that came at the worst possible time, during harvest. First, they had to delay harvesting because the grain was too moist, then they could only sit back and watch as the barley began sprouting in the fields. In the worst hit areas of North Central Montana and Idaho’s Magic Valley, 50% to 65% of the crop is no longer fit for malting. Tens of thousands of acres were damaged.
Barley is a pretty tough grain. It can handle all sorts of weather problems from the day we plant it through leafing, tillering, booting, heading and filling. But when the kernels are full and ready to ripen, what we absolutely, positively need is sun. The last couple of weeks in the field, and during the harvest, is the most critical time of the year.
Some maltsters are loosening their standards to accept more of the sprouted barley. But most farmers will have to dump their crop into the feed markets. Feed prices are already depressed because of a bumper crop of corn. Feed barley is fetching less than half the price of malting barley and farmers’ losses are running into the millions.
There’s some speculation of what might happen to beer prices next year, but don’t ask us, we’re farmers not commodity brokers.
This reminds of 2008, the year we became farmers. Hops were running short and prices were soaring. Malting barley was getting expensive, too. We had enough.
We began growing our own hops and barley. We wanted to make sure we had ample supply of these two major ingredients in Rogue ales, porters, lagers and stouts. We wanted to know we were getting the best varieties, and the best possible quality. From those difficult times, the GYO Revolution was born.
There are still more crops to be harvested this year for our beers, spirits, ciders and sodas. Here in Tygh Valley we’re waiting for the apples in our 19-acre orchard. At our farm in Independence we’re almost done with the hop harvest and getting ready to pick our Wigrich Sweet Corn and jalapeño peppers. Our neighbor’s hazelnuts are falling from the trees. Please join us at Rogue Farms for the harvest season and remember that none of this is possible without the cooperation of Mother Nature.