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Burlington Gets "Hoppy"

The annual Hops Conference was held in Burlington Thursday.
BURLINGTON, Vt. - Hops add flavor to beer, and today, there was a whole conference dedicated to them.

The goal: bring farmers and brewers together to grow better hops, and capitalize on the crop's popularity.

Jason Stuffle of Burlington is one of nearly three hundred people who attended the annual Hops Conference Thursday.

"We're just here to learn more about what we can do, we're kind of hobbyists, we home brew," he said.

Attendees ranged from casual hop growers like Jason, to more established farmers like Tony Weathers. He came all the way from Oregon to address the crowd.

"I'm talking about mechanically pruning the hops, some chemicals we use in the northwest for mildew controls," he said.

Organizers of the UVM event say information like that is key to figuring out the best way to grow hops, and how to ensure the highest quality hops are being produced.

"It also is a conference for brewers to come and learn about growing hops as well, but also how to secure local hops," Heather Darby said. She’s an agronomist with UVM Extension.

Conference attendance has doubled in recent years, no doubt in response to the explosion of micro-brews. The reach of the Hops Conference extends far beyond Vermont. In fact, most attendees come from outside the state.

Lucas and Evan, from Massachusetts, are thinking about starting their own hop operation.

"We come from zero experience, and everybody here seems to be pretty knowledgeable," Lucas said.

Darby says it's no surprise farmers are expanding into hop growth. "If you're a farmer you're always looking for a product or a crop that you can grow that potentially will help the viability and sustainability of your farm. With 35 micro-brewers in the state of Vermont there certainly could be quite a market place for local hop products."
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