The 30th anniversary celebration of Yakima Chief Hopunion July 27 was fittingly held at Carpenter Farms in Granger.
The Carpenter family launched the Yakima Valley hop industry six generations ago in 1868.
The Carpenters are now one of the families that own the No. 1 hop-supplying company in the Pacific Northwest. The others are the Perraults, Smiths, Colemans, Brulottes, Sauves, Van Horns, Housers, Davidsons, Weathers and Gasselings.
The marketing company formed in 1988 by a half-dozen families, all from Washington, was Yakima Chief. Oregon families joined the association of farm families when Yakima Chief merged with Hopunion to form Yakima Chief Hopunion in 2014.
All of this has brought Yakima Valley Pioneer Charles Carpenter, or his name, at least, full circle.
A member of a New York hop-growing family, he came to the Ahtanum area in 1868 to plant the first hops in this region. He was the first No. 1 hop supplier in the Yakima Valley.
Little did Charles Carpenter know he was unleashing what is now the largest hop-producing area in the world or that his descendants would be industry leaders.
Six generations later, the Carpenter family maintains Charles’ same innovative and creative spirit.
The Carpenters are partners in Select Botanicals Group and Hop Breeding Company. It is dedicated to the propagation of new varieties. It helps keep Yakima Chief Hopunion in step with the expanding taste demands of craft brewers and their customers.
Steve Carpenter, Chief Supply Chain Officer of Yakima Chief Hopunion, and Charles’ great-grandson, noted the company has risen to No.1. But, he said, that was never the plan.
“We don’t want to be rock stars,” he said. “We want the brewers to be the rock stars. We just want to provide them the quality hops they need.”
Whether it was a stroke of luck or genius planning, the Carpenters and other growers made their decision to market together in 1988. Not long after, the craft brewing industry began to grow, and Yakima Chief-Hopunion has developed a solid relationship with the craft brewers.
According to the hop-growing industry’s own statistics, there has been a long streak of good years for all growers-suppliers.
There were about 30,000 acres of hops in the valley in 1988. There are 55,339 this year, and the price of hops has gone from $3.28 per pound in 2010 to $5.92 last year.
When it came time in the late 1980s for the Carpenters to break away from broker-dominated marketing, other families were invited to join in. The first two were the Perraults and the Smiths. The three families discussed the move at the Granger Library.
The Perrault family settled in Moxee in 1902 when Alberic Perrault traveled by rail from Minnesota, at the age of 18, to establish a homestead for his family. Their rich heritage in the hop community began in 1928 when Alberic planted his first hops.
Alberic and his wife Mamie raised 13 children. Among the large family was Bernard (Barney) Perrault, who took interest in the hop industry and established Perrault Farms in Outlook in 1962. The farm moved in 1968 to Toppenish, where Perrault Farms continues with its third and fourth generation of hop farmers.
Today, Perrault Farms is under the guidance of Barney’s eldest son, Steve, and his wife Judy, with additional management provided by Steve’s sons, Jason and Jeff, and their cousin Tim. Acknowledged as one of the premier hop growing operations, Barney and Steve have both received the “Order of the Hop Award” in 1997 and 2009, respectively.
The second family to sign up was the B. T. Loftus family, represented today by third-generation hop growers Mike and Cheryl Smith.
Like many families in the 1920s, the Loftus family traveled to Moxee in pursuit of work on the railroad. They started farming a variety of crops and livestock, instead.
As the Yakima Valley transformed into a notable hop growing community, B.T. and Leota Loftus established the family’s first hop farm, of five acres, in 1932. Today, the family tradition is under the watch of third and fourth generation hop farmers, Mike and Cheryl Smith and their son, Patrick.
With sustainability and environmental responsibility embedded in its core values, Loftus Ranches has installed the largest private solar generation project in the state of Washington. It accounts for more than 80 percent of their facility’s electric consumption.