We’re going to let you in on a little secret. We just planted barley in our hop rows at Rogue Farms in Independence, Oregon.
We are not replacing our beloved hops with barley.
Instead, this is about the terroir of the Wigrich Appellation and the wonderful alluvial soil where we grow ingredients for our beers and spirits.
Eons of flooding covered the Wigrich Appellation with a legacy of volcanic dirt. First was the Ice Age floods from 13,000 to 11,000 BC. About twice a century, the floodwaters covered the entire Willamette Valley, from Portland to Eugene, hundreds of feet deep.
More recently, there are the seasonal floods of winter. Sometimes the Willamette River can’t handle all the rain we receive here in Western Oregon and brand new lakes suddenly appear all over the valley. This is the kind of flooding that bedeviled Oregon’s pioneer hop growers, the Native Americans who preceded them, and Rogue Farms in 2012.
But the floods are also a blessing. They leave behind rich alluvial loams, a type of soil that’s perfect for growing hops. That’s something worth preserving. That’s why we planted barley.
The barley we planted this fall is a winter cover crop. It’s only job is to prevent soil erosion. Eons of flooding are good. A week of flooding can be very damaging.
By the time the barley stalks are full height – about four feet tall – the roots will form a complex web that will keep the soil in place against rain and flooding.
And during high water the stalks will lie down over the field, covering the dirt like a straw carpet.
So while you’ll never taste this barley in a Rogue Farms beer or spirit, it will make a huge difference in the quality of the seven hops we’ll harvest next summer.
When you grow it, you know it. And when you know it, you’ll protect it.
Please visit the farm and see how we grow hops, rye, jalapeños, honeybees, pumpkins and a cover crop of barley.
For more information on visiting the farm, click here.