BOZEMAN - Montana is known for many things — its big sky, wide-open spaces, mountains, and agriculture.
Montana is currently looking to boost agri-business in the state in the form of $3 million.
Twenty-nine producers will receive portions of that money including Fireroot Distillery in Florence, Drummond's Farmer Boy Eggs, and Aspen Grove Farm in Corvallis.
One of the other 29 recipients of the USDA grant was Crooked Yard Hops which picked up $39,528 to continue growing their business.
“The purpose of those grants is to basically help producers do value-added processing for businesses,” said USDA Montana State Director for Rural Development Kathleen Williams.
“It's going to let us expand our operations, make some of our processing more efficient,” said Crooked Yard Hops founder and farmer Jake Teselle.
The goal of the value-added producer grant from the USDA is to help agricultural businesses from start to finish. In the case of Crooked Yard Hops in Bozeman, they grow to sell to brewers in Montana and across the county.
“Sell hops to whomever wants them and to capture all that margin by doing all of the growing, the packaging, the distribution, the sales—we do everything here,” said Teselle.
Teselle says at Crooked Yard Hops they harvest around 8,000 pounds of hops. If you do the math, one-to-two pounds of hops makes one barrel of beer; one 1 barrel equals about two kegs; two kegs makes around 280 pints of beer. Crooked Yard Hops makes 2.2 million to 4.4 million pints of beer.
“It helps ensure that we are not just an export economy,” Williams said.
According to a report from the Hops Growers of America, the Northwest United States is one of the top hop producing areas in the country.
In 2020 Washington state topped out the list at 42,269 acres harvested. Oregon harvested 9,268 and Idaho harvested 7,104. Montana has a small number comparatively; our state harvested 173 acres in 2020 but that is still a 360% increase from the 12 acres harvested in 2016.
“It's a fun market to be in,” said Teselle.
As Montana’s hops market grows, Teselle works with other hop farmers across the state; he hopes that when you grab a Montana-made beer, be proud of the product you drink.
“Educate the beer drinker that beer is an agricultural product,” says Teselle.
People can look for the green Montana Made Hops tap handle which shows that that beer came from a Montana hops farmer.