Good Bines: Hop Industry Best Practices Program Announced

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Hop Growers of America (HGA) recently launched Good Bines, a comprehensive educational best practices resource for U.S. hop growers. Good Bines is a farm-focused framework built on the collaborative development and sharing of economic, social, and environmental best practices.

“Hop Growers of America is pleased to provide the USA Hops Good Bines platform for member grower education regarding food safety, risk assessment, and other best practices topics. The Foundations of Food Safety and Risk Assessment modules are designed to allow growers to self-assess their operations on an annual basis, ensuring continued process improvement.”

Ann George, Executive Director of Hop Growers of America

“Good Bines will be expanded in coming years to include education on various topics related to sustainability, business management, and agronomic topics, with a particular focus on fertility, plant protection, water, and irrigation,” says George.

Good Bines provides member hop growers with trusted resources, ensuring the overall resiliency of the U.S. hop industry, and addresses a long-term strategic goal of access to quality brewing ingredients expressed by the Brewers Association board of directors.

Good Bines educational resources are organized in buckets by topics. These topics include:

  • Food Safety and Quality
  • Water and Irrigation
  • Business Management
  • Soil Fertility
  • Integrated Pest Management
  • Sustainability

One key feature of Good Bines is a searchable directory, which allows brewers to identify growers with certifications that align with their business values. Brewers can sort on various third-party certifications (GlobalGAP, Salmon Safe, USDA Organic), Good Bines module achievements (Food Safety, Risk Assessment, Water and Irrigation), and by state in which growers are located.

“Growers have the opportunity to promote their participation in the Good Bines program, along with selected third-party audited food safety and sustainability schemes, through the USA Hops Best Practices Directory, which was made possible by a grant from Brewers Association,” says George, who recently presented a 2019 Craft Brewers Conference (CBC) seminar on this topic. (Attendees of CBC 2019 can view this presentation and listen to the recording here.)

“Hop growers are some of the most innovative and progressive stewards of their land,” says Carman McKinney, who is the Food Safety and Sustainability Manager at Roy Farms, and serves on the HGA Best Practices committee. “Good Bines walked us through risk-based self-assessments to determine where improvement may be needed, as well as giving growers the opportunity to justify farm practices that support a safe and sustainable environment. Investing in Good Bines and third-party certifications helps hold us accountable for food safety, worker health and safety, product traceability, conservation of natural resources, reduction of non-compliance risk, and creates new market opportunities for our farm.”

According to Mark Trowbridge, owner of Top Hops Farm in Goodrich, Mich., Good Bines resources are key to the success of his business. “At Top Hops Farm we view HGA’s Good Bines program as a tool box for the business end of having a successful hop farm. There are other resources such as universities for the science end of growing healthy hop plants, but there’s a need for business practices that keep you on track and always improving the overall hop farm. We’ve completed the Foundations for Food Safety module and plan to work our way through the Risk Assessment Module next.”

Brewers Association strongly encourages brewer members to understand more about their supply chain, and part of that is knowing their growers’ needs and values, and how those align with their own expectations. The HGA Good Bines directory is a great tool to help brewers in that effort. As more growers meet Good Bines milestones and register in the directory, brewers will have a clearer picture of the diversity in their hop supply chain.

Brewers bear the ultimate responsibility for ensuring traceability and safety under the Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA). Brewers Association offers various member resources related to FSMA, including a Food Safety Plan for Craft Brewers. The BA and HGA resources complement each other, allowing brewers to make great beer with high quality ingredients produced by their grower partners.