03/08/13 8:00am
03/08/2013 8:00 AM
wading river hops for microbreweries

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO |
John Condzella hand-harvesting hops at his family’s farm in Wading River last August.

With a week to spare, hop farmer John Condzella surpassed his $27,000 kickstarter goal to purchase a German hops harvesting machine that will be available for cooperative use among start-up hop producers on the North Fork.

Mr. Condzella, of Condzella Farms in Wading River, started the fundraising campaign Feb. 5 and had until March 10 to complete it. He met his goal Monday to purchase the Wolf WHE 140 Hopfen Pflückmaschine harvester from Germany.

“The machine is being prepared to be shipped in Europe,” Mr. Condzella said. “I am going to be going over there in a couple weeks to seal the deal and purchase it.”

Once it arrives on the Island, he will need to convert the processor from European electric to American electric, he said.

“[Hop harvesting] starts in the middle of August, so we really want to get the machine here no later than the beginning of June,” Mr. Condzella said.

The hop processor will make the once time-consuming harvesting season fly-by for East End’s hop producers.

“We weren’t even able to harvest our full acre last year,” Mr. Condzella said. “We worked at it night and day for a while.”

It takes about one hour to harvest one plant, Mr. Condzella said.

“The machine will do that same plant in about 30 seconds,” he said.

There are just under 1,000 plants on Mr. Condzella’s single acre hop farm in Wading River, “with [the processor] and two people we could do the whole acre in eight or nine hours.”

Mr. Condzella said Southold couple Andrew Tralka and Jaclyn Van Bourgondien of Farm to Pint in Peconic will also be using the processor to harvest their hops this season and expand their farm.

“Without that hop picker on the North Fork it wouldn’t have been economical or efficient for hop growers out here,” Mr. Tralka  said.

“We are extremely thankful to our backers,” Mr. Condzella said. “It enables us to move forward with our original plan of growing hops. You think you can hand pick them, but this machine is going to knock away barriers and allow us to grow into it, add acreage and expand our business.”

Harvesting time matters for local brewers with special batches of ale in the works. Some can only be produced from fresh, wet hops. The processor will allow farmers to harvest and maintain larger hop farms, supplying local brewers with the quantity of hops they need.

“It allows us to now have a local source of hops as opposed to outsourcing hops,” said Greg Martin, co-founder of Long Ireland Brewing Company. “We’re a local business and we want to support other local businesses.

Mr. Condzella was “the first local guy that has a harvestable crop that was usable for us,” Mr. Martin said.

The hop processor brings brewers one-step closer to their goal of a truly local brew, but a truly local product is still impossible without local production of malted barley.

Funds for the hop processor will become available to Mr. Condzella on Sunday, according to the kickstarter website. Kickstarter.com provides a space for entrepreneurs to raise money for creative projects. If a given project does not reach its goal, no money is collected.

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02/15/13 7:00am
02/15/2013 7:00 AM
wading river hops for microbreweries

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO |
John Condzella hand-harvesting hops at his family’s farm in Wading River last August.

After this year’s first hops harvest proved too much to harvest at Condzella Farms in Wading River, fourth-generation farmer John Condzella has posted an online fundraiser at kickstarter.com to help him purchase a German hops harvesting machine.

The machine shakes plants’ bines free of hops, and then processes the important beer-making ingredient.

Since launching the online fundraiser last week (see video), Mr. Condzella has raised more than $8,000 of the $27,000 needed for a Wolf WHE 140 Hopfen Pflückmaschine.

There’s now just 23 days left.

“It has the ability to harvest an acre of hops in an 8-hour day with two people operating the machine,” Mr. Condzella said.  “If hand-picking it would take about 500 hours for the same two people.”

It takes about an hour for a person to harvest one hops plant, he said.

The machine would not only benefit Condzella farms, but other hops producers in the area.

Mr. Condzella said he wants the machine to be used cooperatively for those area farmers already growing hops or hoping to grow them in the future.

“I get calls from farmers who are curious about hops and the potential to sell them to local breweries,” he said.

The project already has the support of breweries such as Long Ireland Beer Company and the upcoming Moustache Brewery, both in Riverhead’s Polish Town area.

“We’re so happy to support them and to be able to have them as a local hop farmer,” said Lauri Spitz of Moustache Brewing Company.

Brewers are looking at local hops as the next step for providing a truly local product.

“People love to drink local, but what they don’t realize is that most of the ingredients actually come from faraway places like the other side of the United States, the UK or the Midwest,” said Michael Philbrick, owner of Port Jefferson Brewing Company in Port Jefferson. “The ability to get hops that are grown in your own backyard, practically and use them as fast as possible and as fresh as possible is a giant asset to Long Island.

“It greens the community, it greens our process, above all else, it’s a fresher and more quality ingredient that I know exactly where it came from.”

Kickstarter.com provides a space for entrepreneurs to raise money for creative projects. If a given project does not reach its goal, no money is collected.

[email protected]