Eastern Minnehaha Co. man tries growing ingredient for beer
It's harvest time for Lee Anderson.
But he is harvesting something that's not typically grown around here. A couple of years, Lee got an idea to grow something a little unusual and this year, it went from being an idea to being reality.
Lee is growing, and for the first time, harvesting hops.
"Seeing that there's a market with micro-breweries and nano-breweries popping up in South Dakota, it felt like the smart move to do, to get in and start supplying those businesses," said Anderson.
Lee and his fiancee Janelle put their thinking caps on about just how to do this.
They found out there were grants available through the South Dakota Department of Agriculture. These grants are meant for farmers who wanted to grow specialty crops, and hops certainly fit the bill.
"I saw this in my head for a year and a half and to see it now is crazy," said Janelle Johnson.
There are challenges with growing hops. They are naturally sensitive to light. They grow on a system that looks similar to vines, meaning they are susceptible to the wind and they need a quality source of water. This was a true challenge as it was especially dry this year.
Geoffrey Njue is with the South Dakota State Extension, and he has been guiding Lee and Janelle through this entire process. He says the couple has done everything exactly right, so far. He will continue to help them sell this crop while preparing for the next one.
"We're available as a resource to farmers and growers and people in the community," said Njue.
Lee and Janelle harvest these hops one vine at a time, and they hope their green crop will lead to some more green in their wallets.