Today HOPPED UPSTATE is screening at Farm Film Fest VI in Chatham, NY. The festival showcases films that explore trends in agriculture and issues facing farmers.
The other films screening are: Growing Cities, Crafting the Cider Comeback, Community Garden, Locust Hill Farm, The Beekeeper, Trowbridge Angus Cattle, and Cow Power. Learn more about the festival here.
“Leslie Von Pless believes social change is best captured on film. And one of the faster growing issues she’s latched on to? Hops, and the people who grow them…The 15-minute film mostly features Dave Pasick and his wife Kayla of Szaro Farms, who fell into hops growing when they discovered the flower-like cones used to bitter and flavor beer creeping up the side of a barn on their Schuyler property.”
I’m very excited to launch the full HOPPED UPSTATE film today. I spent the last 8 months traveling around Upstate NY, collecting stories from some really wonderful brewers and farmers who are working hard to start new ventures in hopes to do what they love for a living and contribute to revitalizing their home state.
Watch it below and visit the HOPPED UPSTATE page to learn more about the film, find production stills and additional footage.[vimeo 75160196 w=640 h=360]
I was interviewed recently by the Utica Observer-Dispatch’s new food magazine, Entree. The piece came out this month as part of a feature about the growth of craft beer in Central New York.
I’ve been working on HOPPED UPSTATE for almost 8 months and the full film is close to finished. It follows the progress of new farmer, Dave Pasick, as he attempts to start a hop yard on his family farm during the first year that New York’s Farm Brewery Law has gone into effect.
Last weekend I headed to Munnsville, NY to interview Steve Miller of Cornell Cooperative Extension at Foothill Farms. Steve is the resident NYS hops specialist and is doing a ton of work across the state to bring information to new hop farmers. He’s the founder of the Northeast Hop Alliance and he started the “GeoHopping” project that is tracking the varieties and locations of wild hops in New York.
Steve told me that in the last few years, we’ve gone from having just about 15 acres total of hops growing in the state to over 130 acres today. That’s still not much, but the interest is booming and new hop yards are popping up all over. Despite the heritage of hops farming in NYS, today they are basically a brand new crop and every farmer is starting from scratch to grow them.
I also stopped at Szaro Farms in Utica for an update with Dave Pasick. He strung wire on new poles he put in and told me about the research he’s been doing on funding opportunities through Empire State Development’s one-stop shop for the beverage industry. Lots of questions remain for him as far as qualifying for grants since his farm hasn’t been in production for many decades. For now, Dave is learning as he goes and doing what he can to keep expanding his hop yard.
This is the release of the second video in the Hopped Upstate series: Sustaining the Land. Casey and Kelly Holzworth are creating a sustainable farm that they one day hope to turn into a homestead. As part of their operation, they started a quarter acre hops yard. Almost a year since Governor Cuomo signed the Farm Brewery Act into law, a new market and demand for New York State grown hops has taken hold. Casey’s hops have already peaked the interest of area breweries and he’ll be looking to sell come fall.
Kelsey’s Quarter Acre Farm is located on land leased through Saratoga P-L-A-N’s land easement program. The goal for the farm is to put the land they need into agricultural production, while preserving the natural landscape and protecting the environment. Casey believes one idea behind the state’s legislation was to create this kind of opportunity for agricultural production and sustainability in local communities – and he’s excited to be a part of it.
Watch their story below and learn more about the project here.
I spent another weekend upstate filming Dave Pasick of Szaro Farms in Utica, NY. Dave and his wife Kayla have made a lot of progress since I was there in March. They’ve put in a new row of poles, have transplanted new rhizomes to the hop yard, and have new strings of plants climbing up the side of the barn.
Dave says he’s pleased with the growth of his hops and the progress of the farm so far. He says once the bines are well on their way climbing the ropes, all they really need is lots of water and lots of sun. Although Dave is still having a hard time gaining local interest for his hops project, he’s optimistic about the rising support from other regions of the state. I interviewed Kelsey’s Quarter Acre Farm of Saratoga, and others gaining notoriety include Erica and Les Goodman’s hops yard in nearby Lake George and newly opened Hopshire Farm and Brewery near Ithaca.
The Farm Brewery Act has been in effect since January 2013, and its been almost a year since it was signed into law. There’s been tremendous industry-wide impact already and Dave is happy to see how much the media is helping to raise awareness and educate the public on the growth of the craft beer scene as well as challenges still facing both brewers and farmers who are trying to tap into the new market. Stay tuned for the second video installment and learn more about Hoppped Upstate here.
This weekend I started production on my new video project about the craft beer movement in New York State. Over the last decade, the country has seen an enormous shift in beer consumption from the mass-marketed “American” lagers made by large macrobreweries like Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors to dynamic, flavorful, home-grown brews created by small, region-specific microbreweries. New York itself ranks in the top three states with the fasting growing craft beer industry. It’s been called a “bright spot” in New York’s economy and the rapid growth is expected to continue well into the future.
This is about so much more than beer. We’re seeing (what I hope are) the beginnings of an Upstate New York revival – a new appreciation and investment in small businesses, and not just the breweries themselves, but a ripple effect to other local businesses. We’re riding the wave of the “go local” trend by supporting farms and breathing new life into our agricultural industry. And it will hopefully bring the same kind of needed agro-tourism that our wine country has boasted for decades.
Last summer, Governor Cuomo and the state government started taking necessary steps to support craft brewers and farmers by passing the Farm Brewery Act, which includes tax incentives and other benefits to give financial relief to burgeoning breweries. The legislation also requires that 20% of ingredients used by breweries must come from NYS farms, and that will increase eventually to 90%. As a result, we’re seeing more and more farms expanding their operations to include hops and barley production.
To start my project, I visited Middle Ages Brewing Co. in Syracuse, NY. Middle Ages is one of the older craft breweries in both New York and the country, opening its doors in 1994. I love Middle Ages beer – it reminds me of home and special occasions spent with my family, it represents a pride of Syracuse – it’s more than just good beer or simply a brand or product. (And these are many of the same reasons that the rest of the population supports their own local breweries.)
Middle Ages was bottling their ImPaled Ale (IPA) while I was there and I chatted with owner Marc Rubenstein about the brewery. Middle Ages makes traditional English-style ales, importing their malt straight from England to give it as authentic a flavor as possible. Marc is optimistic about New York becoming a hops-growing state, but said that finding local maltsters will still be a challenge.
Next I headed out to Utica, NY and spent the morning with Dave Pasick of Szaro Farms, owned by his family since 1922. After finding wild hops growing along the old barn and silo, Dave transplanted them to a trellis and was able to successfully grow them last summer. His first harvest was used to make a wet hop IPA for Saranac Brewery.
Dave is now looking to expand his hop yard, but with costs totaling up to $15,000/acre – he, like many new hops farmers, will need financial support. He’s pleased with the legislative progress so far – helping to boost the industry and giving both brewers and farmers incentive to produce and sell crops locally – but there are still many hurdles ahead. Stay tuned for the full video!