The farmers at Alna Hopyard and Farm recently closed on an easement with Maine Farmland Trust to ensure that the land will remain available for agriculture in perpetuity.
Patty Krebs and her son, Mike Barker, grow 1.5 acres of hops on the 15-acre property and are in the midst of expanding their fields to increase hop production. The newly protected property adjoins a network of over 1,600 acres of protected land in the Alna-Whitefield area, much of which is protected by Midcoast Conservancy.
“Our neighbors in this beautiful rolling landscape have already protected their land with conservation easements, and we are honored to join them through our partnership with Maine Farmland Trust,” said Barker. “We think of this land as a treasure, and we’re profoundly thankful that this easement works to protect and preserve it.
“For the past six years, we’ve been harvesting really exceptional hops on its prime agricultural soils, hops very high in alpha acids and loaded with a great essential oil profile,” he said. “Preserving farmland like this means that we are preserving the ability to always make great Maine beer, and that is an objective that we firmly believe in — both for our land, and for others farms across the state.”
Alna Hopyard and Farm sell hops to several local breweries, including Oxbow Brewing Co. in Newcastle and Odd Alewives in Waldoboro. As Alna Hopyard and Farm grows, the mother-and-son team hopes to share the land with others, said Krebs. “We see this wonderful piece of land as even more of an event destination in the future,” she said. “We’ve had overnight harvest beer celebrations so far, with bonfires, barn dancing, camping out under the hop bines, and, of course, beer. We’d like to expand that into daytime tours with picnics on tables near the pond, in the midst of no less than a mini botanical garden!”
The project is the trust’s first easement protecting a property primarily focused on hops production for local breweries. “Craft beer is a fast-growing part of Maine’s economy, and hops and other beer ingredients have the potential to grow along with the industry,” said Adam Bishop, Maine Farmland Trust’s farmland protection program director. “We’re excited to use farmland protection tools to help support this burgeoning agricultural endeavor.”
Maine Farmland Trust works throughout the state to protect farmland, support farmers, and advance the future of farming. Since its founding in 1999, the trust has helped to protect over 60,000 acres of farmland and has provided critical services to over 600 farm families. More information can be had at mainefarmlandtrust.org.