Condzella’s Farm is a name you may have heard floating around among the Long Island beer community lately. Both Port Jeff Brewing Company and Long Ireland Beer Company have produced beers using their fresh/wet hops which are grown locally in Wading River (review of Long Ireland Wet-Hopped Pale Ale). Condzella’s Farm has been in operation since the mid 1800’s, when it started off as a dairy farm. In the 1920’s, they switched over to primarily growing potatoes and limited produce. Today, they have transitioned yet again into harvesting fruits, vegetables and one of the essential components of beer: hops under the moniker Condzella’s Hops.
Although Long Island has an ideal climate for hop farming, the crop is rare on the east coast and most hop harvesting is done on several large, west coast farms. This makes it extremely difficult for east coast breweries to produce entirely local beers and especially hard to brew them with wets. It wasn’t always like this however. At one time, New York was the primary hop producer in the United States and exported their hops all over the world. But prohibition and the labor intensity of the harvest steered many farmers to other crops and the New York hop became a thing of the past.
For the last two years, Condzella’s Farm has devoted a piece of their land to growing hops. This has been exciting for Long Island breweries and home brewers alike, as the possibility of local, fresh hops is once again a reality in New York. Though this is a huge advance for the local craft beer community, John Condezlla (who runs the farm) is running into some of the same problems as those hop farmers who came before him. Hop harvesting is very time sensitive and labor intensive, and it is virtually physically impossible for his yearly crop to be fully harvested, even with help from farmers and brewers alike.
This is why John has started a Kickstarter for Condzella’s Hops (Farm). His goal is to raise $27,000 to purchase the Wolf WHE 140 Hopfen Pflückmaschine which, despite what the name may lead you to believe, is not Germanys version of the Terminator. It is a hop harvesting machine which will allow Condzella’s Hops to harvest an acre of hops in one working day (8 hours). For comparisons sake, this same task would take 500 hours if done by hand. In addition to using it for their own hop crop, Condzella’s Hops (Farm) wants to bring this machine to Long Island from Europe in order to encourage a resurgence of the New York hop. Therefore, the hop harvester will be available for use by any local farmers who need assistance in picking their own hops.
Craft beer on Long Island has come a long way in the last few years and this machine would have the ability to elevate it to the next level. The Kickstarter campaign has already raised almost $6,000 and runs through March 10. So if you have a little extra beer money over the next month, think about donating to a cause that will help out the entire craft beer community. Beer people helping beer people is defnitely a cause we can, and will, get behind.