Prior to our VALOR Class III trip to Washington State, I knew very little about hops. Fortunately for me, Washington State leads the nation in hop production, so I was in the right place to learn.
We started our morning off by meeting with Frank Hendrix, a Yakima County Extension agent. He provided a great overview of agriculture in the region and in the state. He also shared with us his research regarding genetic evaluation of beef tenderness.
Yakima County boasts a significant quantity and diversity of agriculture!
We had the pleasure of visiting Virgil Gamache Farms. The company is a developer, grower, and manufacturer of hops. The Gamache family began farming in Washington’s Yakima Valley in 1918 at a farm they named “the Sunshine Ranch.” The Gamaches began planting hops in 1932, just as Prohibition was ending. The family farm has grown from 15 acres under cultivation in 1932 to over 1,000 acres today.
Virgil Gamache is the home of the world-famous Amarillo brand hop, known for its aromatic, citrus tones that are used by brewers around the world. This variety was developed in 1997 and is known by growers as “VGXP01.” This name is a tribute to the company’s founder, Virgil Gamache. It also represents their first experiment in hop breeding!
It was interesting to see the confluence of new and old at the farm. They have managed to preserve the family’s legacy, while still growing and adopting new technology and techniques.