Kendall family promotes hops with festival at their farm

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 August 2021 at 7:51 am

Photos by Ginny Kropf: The Woodams family from Center Road, Kendall, pose in front of their hops field, which is nearly ready to harvest. From left are son Ethan, Kim and John Woodams and longtime family friend and helper Frank Mandigo.

KENDALL – Growing hops is a family venture for John and Kim Woodams of Center Road, and one which they are eager to promote any way they can.

On Tuesday, the Woodams hosted the first hops festival at their farm, in hopes of sharing their passion for the crop.

More than 100 breweries across New York state were invited, according to Kim Woodams. However, while many responded, most could not attend because of the shortage of laborers, they said.

“There is a high demand for hops, but we can’t find anybody to work,” said Josh Kimm, owner of Skaneateles Brewery. “With college kids looking at getting their school loans paid for by the government, why would they want to work?”

The Woodams are fortunate to have a family friend of more than 60 years, Frank Mangio, who helps any way he can, as do the Woodams children.

The Woodams have 10 acres of hops and plan to plant five more acres next year.

Larry Smart, a professor of Horticulture and Plant Breeding at Cornell University, attended the Woodams’s hops festival with Chris Gerling, a senior Extension Associate in the Department of Food Service at Cornell.

Smart explained the increase in popularity of growing hops is due to the laws being passed requiring brewers to buy a certain percent of hops from local growers. That number is currently 60 percent, but will increase to 90 percent in 2024.

He went on to say most hops grown in New York come from out west and don’t do well in New York’s climate. Hops grow well in the Pacific Northwest, because the climate is so dry. He said Cornell is trying to create hops that will grow well here in New York’s shorter growing season.

Several individuals interested in growing hops attended a hops festival Tuesday at the home of John and Kim Woodams. Checking out samples of the varieties the Woodams grow are, clockwise from left, Chris Gerling, a senior Extension associate in the Department of Food Service at Cornell; Josh Kimm, owner of the Skaneateles Brewery; Larry Smart, professor of Horticulture and Plant Breeding at Cornell; John Woodams; and son Ethan Woodams.

In spite of New York’s climate not being the most ideal for growing hops, their popularity is attributed to the fact people want local ingredients in their beer, along with the laws requiring brewers use a certain amount of locally grown hops.

Smart said he had never worked with hops before and attended the Woodams’ hops festival to learn as much as he could.

“I am happy to take this opportunity to learn from the growers,” Smart said.

Ken Greenwood of Avon accepted the Woodams’ invitation because he hopes to build or buy a brewery and wants to learn as much as he can about the industry.

“If I can buy a brewery, it will be between Buffalo and Syracuse, but if I have to build, it will be in Livingston County,” he said.

It was also revealed that the Cooperstown area was one of the original hops growing regions in New York state, due to the fact the Anheuser-Busch family once had a vacation home there and grew hops.

The Woodams planted their first hops five years ago and harvested a few last year. This year will be their first major crop, John said. They plan to start harvesting the first of the vines in about a week.

Concluding the hops festival was a catered lunch provided by the Woodams and sampling of several varieties of craft beers from the Skaneateles Brewery.