Small Business Spotlight Follow-Up: Cobblestone Hop Yard

August 22, 2019 06:29 AM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — A month ago, News10NBC was out at Cobblestone Hop Yard learning about their operation in Ontario, Wayne County. Now, those hops are ready to be picked -- and we went back and tagged along.

For the past few months, the vines have been growing up the hanging cords on Cheryl Wygal's farm — Cobblestone Hop Yard. Now, about 20 feet high, and bursting with cone-shaped flowers, these hops are ready to be harvested.


"I'm hoping for about 7,000 pounds this year," Wygal told us.

She drives the tractor as her children cut the vines and load them on the trailer.   

"I actually like working with them," Wygalsaid. "I don't know if they agree with it, but I like bringing them to work with me because they're kind of fun."

It's still up for debate if they think it's fun.   

"You know, it's very labor-intensive, but it's not hard work. So there are worse things they could be doing," Wygal joked.

This is Wygal's fourth harvest. She started Cobblestone Hop Yard in 2015, and now has 14 different hop varieties growing on eight acres.

Being harvested on this day were Centennial hops.

"So that yellow stuff, that's what the brewers are after...the lupulin," she said, breaking open one of the cone-shaped hop blooms. "That's got all the hop oils and flavorings."

It's the hops that put the bitterness and aroma in beer. With an exploding local craft beer movement afoot and state incentives for breweries to use local ingredients, these are in high demand.

So, for the next few weeks, Wygal and her children will be working overtime to process this year's crop.

Once cut, the vines are run through a harvesting machine, which strips the cones from the plants and sorts them. The hops come out on a conveyer and are put into bins to dry. Fans help with the drying process.

"That'll blow air through them and gently dry them," Wygal explained. "The only time I use heat is if it's super high moisture and I have to lower the relative humidity."

Once dried, the hops will be sent out to be processed. They'll sell for about $12-14 per pound.

Cobblestone Hop Yard now has about two dozen customers from mostly New York breweries.

The hop vines are rough and can draw blood, but for Wygal, the harvest is her favorite time of year.

"It's the most exciting part of the work because although it's a lot of work, it smells great and once it's done, you know it's over."

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Brett Davidsen

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