We were going through our archives when we stumbled across this photo of someone tasting our dirt.
That’s Sue Reams of the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Sue and several other soil scientists came to Rogue Farms a couple of years ago to study our soil. To learn about the texture of our soil, she grabbed a piece of dirt, put it in her mouth and chewed on it.
Anything for science.
The photo reminds us of how important dirt is to us. Good soil nurtures the crops we grow at Rogue Farms in Independence and Tygh Valley. Better crops make for better ingredients, which means better beers, spirits, ciders and sodas.
So here’s a few things to know about the dirt of Rogue Farms.
Thank A Volcano
The eruption of Mt. St. Helens in 1980 reminded people that Oregon and Washington were largely built by volcanoes. Eons ago, massive lava flows smothered most of Eastern Washington and flowed out to the ocean, creating many of the majestic cliffs along the Oregon Coast.
Volcanic eruptions and uplifting constructed the Cascades and many of the other mountain ranges in the region. Pretty much every tall peak of the Cascades was once an active volcano.
Now, the great thing about lava is that once it cools and is ground down – it’s fantastic dirt.
Mother Nature Brought The Dirt To Us
Starting about 15,000 years ago, massive Ice Age Floods filled Oregon’s Willamette Valley with water up to 400 feet deep. These massive events occurred about twice a century, over a period of 2,000 years. As the floodwaters roared across Washington, they scooped up all that amazing volcanic soil, carried it into the Willamette Valley and deposited it onto the valley floor. When it was over – the future site of our hopyard was covered in layers of soil hundreds of feet high.
This rich legacy of soil is why the Willamette Valley is one of the most diverse farming regions in the world, and why we can grow so many different kinds of crops at Rogue Farms in Independence, Oregon. We grow our own seven varieties of hops, Wigrich Corn, McKercher Wheat, Dream Rye, Dream Pumpkins, Prickless Marionberries, jalapeños, botanicals and honey. Our dirt is that good.
Over the Cascades at Rogue Farms in Tygh Valley, the soil is also volcanic. But how it got here is entirely different.
Looking at the photo you see Mt. Hood, the tallest peak of the Oregon Cascades.
During the Ice Age, these peaks were covered with glaciers – some of which remain with us today. As the glaciers expanded and shrank, they ground the rocky lava beneath them into fine dust. Wind carried the dust off the mountains and left it behind here in Tygh Valley. It’s called loess (less).
The volcanic loess blown in from the Cascades is why this part of Oregon is known as the state’s bread and fruit basket. The farmers are famous for their orchard crops and wheat. But we’re the ones who figured out how to grow malting barley here.
Mother Nature Is Still Bringing In Dirt
Almost every winter, we can count on the Willamette River to overfill its banks and come flowing into our hopyard. This seasonal flooding is important because it replenishes the soil with moisture, and brings in new dirt.
Just like the Ice Age floods, these floodwaters are filled with sediment. When they settle in over the hopyard, they release the material, adding another layer of soil. Winter floods renew this land and are an important reason why we, and the farmers before us, have been growing hops here over three centuries.
And The Most Important Thing To Remember Is…
No matter what kind of beer or spirit you like, the story behind it began months or years ago as a seed, rhizome or starter planted in the soil at a farm. Becoming farmers taught us to appreciate that in ways we never knew was possible.
Just as important is the story of the soil. Although you can’t taste the dirt in a beer or spirits, you are tasting the result of centuries old geological forces.
So we say beer and spirits begin in the dirt. Head out to Rogue Farms, have a beer with us, and remember to give thanks to Mother Nature for making it all possible. Join us in the Grow Your Own Revolution!