smith rock hop farm - training hops central oregonWe had a question come in this past week about the time it takes to train hop bines (wrapping the hop growth clockwise around rope so that they don’t break or crawl along the ground.) I love questions like this so here is the full text of our correspondence:

“Quick question. I was reading a cost analysis from a small hop farmer who said that he spends $2000 per acre just training the bines. Thats 200 or so hours just training them to the ropes, which seems very high. Thoughts on that. I haven’t seen any other farmer mention a labor cost for that aspect of production.”

Let’s do a quick estimate to see how close 200hrs comes to being accurate. Things to take into account:

  • Number of bines per rope
  • Number of ropes per plant
  • How much bine will be trained (e.g. 6″ or 2ft)
  • Density of 1 acre (# of plants/section, distance between rows)
  • Just training bines or trimming unused hop bines as well

We have 12ft between rows and 36ft between poles down the row. 95% of our 1 acre is 4ft between plants (our first year we planted 50 rhizomes at 6ft between plants). Our rope setup is similar to the large farms in Willamette and Yakima where we have 2 ropes per plant, and the ropes “V” out into the rows to allow for longer growth and greater distance or “breathing room” between growth. We have roughly 900 plants on our 1 acre, and we train 3-4 bines per rope. If I just have to train bines of an average 1ft length, then it probably takes 120 seconds per plant to train. That comes out to about 30 hours of training time. Add in maybe another 6 hours of walking between plants and training new bines when some break while training.

Now if you are trimming all of the unused hop bines as well, that is a different story. Some plants can have dozens of bines to choose from and you can spend up to 5 minutes per plant just trimming carefully so you don’t chop the ones you want! Some growers let everything grow and just train choice bines, and some growers trim everything back to focus the energy of the plant on your chosen bines.