Over the past 100+ years, the Pacific Northwest has become entwined with families dedicated to growing and producing quality hops. From growers and field workers, to operations and analytical lab crews, the hop community here runs generations deep. At YCH HOPS, we are fortunate to work and connect with many people who have built their lives around hops and are engrained in the industry. They provide a personalized and unique perspective on the history of hops, and tell a story about the value of agricultural living like many people have never heard before.
Joe John Torres is one of these people. As an employee of Carpenter Ranches in Granger, WA, Joe is a seasoned hop veteran in the area. This year, he celebrated his 50th hop harvest at 70 years old and is the longest-running employee on the farm.
Torres began working at 20 years old in 1965 when Craig and Brad Carpenter, now owners of Carpenter Ranches, were just at the ages of three and one, respectively. Since then, Joe has worked alongside four generations of the Carpenter family and has been joined on the farm by three generations of his own family, including his wife. Torres’ kids and grandkids have also grown up on the ranch, attending school and playing sports with kids in the Carpenter family. He has become such a part of the family that Craig still calls him “tio,” meaning uncle in Spanish.
“Joe has become a fixture here at Carpenter Ranches, says Craig. “He’s embedded in this ranch.”
During his 50 year tenure in the industry, Torres has been involved in just about every aspect of the hop growing process. On top of running the picking machine for 33 years, he’s worked in twining, and is considered an expert at installing trellis and new hop yards. The Carpenters estimate that 90-100% of the trellis currently installed on the ranch have been built and/or overseen by Torres, which he says is his favorite type of work. In addition, he enjoys the fast-paced, exciting work involved in the harvest season.
Now, after half a century of experience, he oversees roughly 50-60 people through the hop growing season, including the picking machine crew and kiln crew. A major aspect of his job during harvest is monitoring the flow of hops to ensure that varieties do not intermix and brewers are being delivered the correct product.
Torres’ dedication to his work at Carpenter Ranches is demonstrated through his attendance. In 50 years, Joe has only missed two days of work, despite long hours starting at 3:30am and working well passed 5pm. Four years ago, Torres attempted to retire from the industry, only to come back just a few weeks later. When asked why he felt the need to return, he simply said he couldn’t stay at home and that he works to give Craig a break. With a short laugh and a smile, he added that there were “too many honey to-do lists at home.” According to Craig, he doesn’t need to be told what to do at the ranch. He knows what needs to be done to ensure that everything runs smoothly and is committed to making that happen.
Through the years, Torres has witnessed dramatic changes in the industry, involving technology, efficiencies and technique. He’s gone from working with the original Regimbal hop deviner when he started working on the ranch, to the Dauenhauer around 1968, to the Carpenter’s own custom deviner.
Joe’s historical perspective, wealth of knowledge and appreciation for the craft of growing hops makes him an invaluable employee and family member at Carpenter Ranches. He is one of many workers in the Pacific Northwest with decades of expertise in growing quality hops and reinforces the value of family farming by sharing his experience with new, on-boarding employees. These hard-working, passionate farmers are truly those at the root of great beer and are the people that give the hop industry a sense of community. At the end of the day, his contribution to this community travels full circle, as he enjoys an ice cold Coors Light, and the occasional Lagunitas IPA.