Spring Update / by Kathy Dunbar

Spring has sprung at Freestyle Farms. Finally!!!  We’ve had a winter of rain followed by more rain and are eagerly embracing the sunshine that started a little over a week ago and hasn’t let up since!  We began training the bines onto the strings last week, and in some of the gardens the hops are already racing their way to the wires. With our new found sunny days, we’ve pounced on the opportunity to get the nursery plants in the ground, finish up gardens, install fertigation, and work on other construction projects we’ve been preparing for throughout the winter.  We’ve got crews working hard all over the farm and it’s exciting to see things coming together.  We’re particularly thrilled to be getting our fertigation systems set up in more gardens this year since we had such success with the hops in the fertigated gardens last harvest.  Our nursery plants going in the ground are looking healthier and more robust than we were expecting.  It’s a visual confirmation of the farming aphorism that there’s no fertilizer more potent than careful attention.

We truly love and appreciate all the feedback and criticisms we’ve received on the pellets from our new pellet plant. The heavy lifting to make the pellets was done by Jeff Soal, who joined our team to run the processing operations.  Jeff was previously the award winning chef at The Urban in Nelson, and he was rapt to hear that his countless hours researching, rubbing hops, smelling them, testing and tinkering, met with approval.  Jeff is looking forward to chasing perfection with this coming years lots (and avoiding heat and oxidation like the plague).  Based on your feedback, the pellet bulk density of 31 lbs per cubic foot is what we plan to stick with for the coming year. 

One of our construction projects has been installing a load cell in one of our kilns to more precisely control fan speed and heat of drying.  If this seasons test works and we get real improvements in quality and consistency, we'll look to roll that out to all of our kilns before the 2019 harvest.  We're also mid-process in adding a third cleaning line and other super-secret modifications to our picker with the goal of continuing to improve the gentleness and cleanliness of our picking.  I'll have more on that in a future update.

With more sunny days ahead, we're excited about how this growing season is shaping up.  I’ve pasted below a graph from our soil sensors so you can get a better sense of the types of data we work with during the growing season and to show just how painfully wet the winter has been. In the blue area on the bottom graph indicates ground fully saturated with water...