From the Farm
Hops (Humulus Lupulus) are perennial rhizomes whose ripe female flowers form tight leafy cones called strobiles, which are harvested for brewing. They have long vine-like stems that annually grow 18-25 feet up from the rhizome. Hop growers construct trellises from poles 10-15 feet tall with a wire mesh connected across them to support the vertical climb of the stem. Hops take at least two years to start to yield significant harvests, but when the strobiles ripen a few Septembers from now, the College Farm will have a chance to start experimenting with their different uses.
So, does this mean Dickinson will be boasting its own beer label? Greene and Grassel suggested a few brew monikers including Red Devil Wheat and Durden Double Bock, but Greene made sure to point out that beer isn’t the only thing hops are good for. In Native American traditions, hops are used for their medicinal properties to make skin-soothing lotion and stress-relieving tea. As a natural preservative, hops were initially added to beer to prevent bacteria growth before their unique flavor and aroma were discovered. Their oil can be extracted to use for making perfume or mineral beverages, and their shoots can be eaten as a vegetable.
Greene figured the alternative applications of hops would be a stronger selling point for the college, but regardless of how Dickinson uses its hops, President Durden enthusiastically joined Grassel and his ’71 classmate, Greene, at the College Farm to plant the rhizomes on Sunday morning. After completing the hops project, President Durden took the retro McCormick Farmall tractor for a spin, showing his affinity for farming pleasures.
Grassel and Greene have also developed a connection with the College Farm. They take a tour every summer during Alumni Weekend, but they seemed especially excited by this visit and their lasting contribution. They came together with student workers and volunteers on Friday and Saturday to construct the trellis frame from 2x4 beams, drill deep holes for the frame and the rhizomes, paint the frame and attach the trellis. It was a job well done on Sunday, and now the hops trellis is a permanent feature on the College Farm’s horizon. Pictures of the hops project from start to finish, including President Durden’s tractor ride, are available on the College Farm’s Facebook page and Twitter account, @DsonFarm.