GreenChief® - Facilitating Continuous Improvement of Hop Farming

Fueled by the need to address quality and sustainability at a farm level, Yakima Chief – Hopunion’s grower-owners (then Yakima Chief, Inc.) created GreenChief®, an internal farm quality and sustainability management program designed to address long-term efforts of sustainable farming practices.

The program originated in 2008 when the grower-owners recognized the need to collaboratively become more sustainable in their day-to-day operations and bonded together to develop a Best Practices Team, including sustainable practices surveys, cost surveys, and harvest food safety practice guidelines. In order to remain competitive, these pioneering growers knew they had to work together regarding cost, environment, and society.

Now seven years in the making, GreenChief® has expanded to include more than 25 other farms in the YCH HOPS community and is increasingly focused on fostering strong baselines for hop quality and harvest best practices for all growers. The program includes best practices meetings throughout the growing season, which in 2015 brought together farmers from Oregon, Washington and Idaho to discuss powdery mildew management, brewer feedback, dry hopping and hop backs and more.

Through GreenChief®, YCH HOPS hopes to not only promote and develop strong practices for traceability, harvest facilities, farm sustainability, grower feedback and reporting, but to also promote collaboration between farms, suppliers and brewers.

The Core GreenChief® Program Consists of Four Components:

1. Best Harvest Practices— In collaboration with growers that deliver to Yakima Chief – Hopunion (YCH), we have developed a Farm Quality Plan and Best Harvest Practices Checklist as tools for assessing facility readiness for harvest and implementing feedback for continuous improvement. The Farm Quality Plan is modeled after the United States Department of Agriculture Good Agricultural Practices (USDA GAP) requirements, but is tailored to hop harvesting. Each grower delivering to YCH is audited before harvest to identify key improvements, and once during harvest to assess the facility.

2. Data Collection— YCH provides growers online access of Agrian software for “field to fork” reporting, sharing of information, field mapping, and farm management tools. YCH collects an extensive amount of data on how hops are grown and processed, including field location, kilning data, harvest windows, conditioning, and sprays applications.

3. Reporting— YCH provides comprehensive analysis for every lot of hops received including moisture, brewing values, oil content, and a gas chromatography (GC) profile. These results, along with grower-provided data and brewer feedback, are reported annually to growers offering insight into best management practices, varietal variation, trends, and brewer preferences. YCH also reviews the results of the Best Harvest Practices Checklist with growers on an annual basis.

4. Best Practices Team— The Best Practices Team is established to promote collaboration and development of best practices among growers across topics ranging from cost control to food safety and cultural practices. All YCH delivering growers are invited to regularly scheduled Best Practices meetings held between spring and harvest, with a wrap-up and reporting meeting in the off-season.