Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Yakima Hops Harvest

Hops on the bine. Yep, it's a bine not a vine. Vines have tendrils that they use to wrap around other plants to climb up to the sun. Bines wrap themselves around other plants and other convenient objects.

The hop yards just before harvest. At the beginning of the growing season cords are strung in a "V" shape from the overhead cables, down to the spots where each hop plant is beginning to grow.
In this picture the cords are still in the "V" shape, but someone will be along to cut the bottom ends, leaving about 1 1/2 feet of hop plant in the ground.

Here, the hops are being harvested. The hop bines are now hanging straight down, because the bottom of the cord and the plant have been cut earlier by workers on the ground. As the tops of the cords are cut, and the hop bines and the cords fall into the the truck. There is a guy on each side of the truck bed, making sure that things don't get too messy.

The guys on the back will now pick out individual bines and hook them into the conveyor system overhead. Once they're hooked in place, the rest of the process is automated.The hop flowers (and some of the leaves) have now been stripped off. There are a few stragglers but the hop farmers view trying to harvest them as a task that is not worth their time and effort. Eventually, the truck will be full and they'll drive it back to the plant for processing. The trucks are offloaded, three at a time.

Once the hops come off the truck, automation takes over. Hop flowers are stripped off the bine, and separated from the leaves in a flurry of sifting and sorting activity. The flowers leave the building on one conveyor belt, everything else on another.

The next stop is the kiln. A layer of hops several feet thick is gradually spread over a cloth-covered perforated base. Warm air is forced though this layer until the hops are dried sufficiently for storage.

Getting near the end of the process. Mountains of hops await the baler.

Hops are pressed into giant bales for storage. They will remain in these bales until their ready for sale or retail packaging.