“We started Aroostook Hops out of personal interest. Jason, my husband, had been making home brew beer for years. We are both scientists, so our interest in growing hops for beer was a natural step. It turns out there was a real need for the product, so we kept expanding and exploring our interest and turned it into a commercial business.”
Krista Delahunty and Jason Johnston started growing hops commercially in Westfield, Maine in 2009. Jason is on the faculty of the University of Maine at Presque Isle teaching a variety of courses in biology and wildlife ecology and Krista teaches an online biology course for non-majors at UMPI. They have two small girls who are getting very used to growing up with farmers for parents.
“The kids spent a lot of time in the swing set during the harvest,” said Krista, “but it was the only way we could keep an eye on them while we worked.
Krista and Jason have quickly become hops experts in the state. “We’re scientists, and we are both interested in how to grow the best hops organically. Hops take three years to produce and at the end of each season we can analyze what worked best, what we can change, what we can do better.”
This year, Jason and Krista were awarded a MTI Seed Grant to fabricate a harvester. To get the Seed Grant they had to match the money, which they were able to do in part with money previously raised through an Indiegogo Campaign.
“We are busy, but we’re happy. We both like the hard, physical work, and the mental challenges of growing hops, but most of all we really enjoy doing this together.”
Krista and Jason joined the Maine Farm Bureau at the urging of a neighboring farm family. “The cost of our membership is basically paid for by the discount we get on our insurance. Plus we get a bunch of other discounts on equipment and travel. Last June, the Aroostook County Farm Bureau asked us to speak at the Maple Meadows Farm Festival, which was great exposure for us. Plus, we both think it’s important to have a voice in what happens in Maine agriculture.”
Aroostook Hops hops can be found in many local Maine brews like Allagash’s Sixteen Counties and Gritty McDuff’s Aroostook Fresh Hop Ale.