First to promote commercial hop growing east of the Cascades was Charles Carpenter who planted his first rootstock from his father’s farm in New York in 1868. Though fairly isolated, farmers found that hops were one crop they could raise profitably. YakimaValley growers shipped eighty bales of hops westward in 1876.
Acreage increased the following decade and once the railroad reached the valley the future success of hop farming was almost assured. In 1886 the principal hop farms were in the Ahtanum Creek Valley. In the early 1890’s more farms were planted making YakimaCounty the principal hop-growing area of the state. In an area known for its hot, dry, summers and abundant irrigation, crops flourished.
Toppenish and Moxee City became major market centers and have remained so to the present day. Production increase was steady from 1,129 acres in 1920 to 4,600 acres in 1940, and in 2015 there were more than 53,000 acres. After WW1, export demands far exceeded supply so new fields were planted allowing PacificCoast growers to dominate the market. During the 1940's a transition occurred from handpicking to the use of motorized portable machines. Later the industry transported hop vines and cones to stationary picking machines and driers. Yakima Valley produced 50% of U.S. totals in 1963, increasing to 70% in 1970.
The Yakima Valley's rich volcanic soil, Cascade mountain water, and long sun-filled days all contribute to prime growing conditions, now yielding 75% of the nation's hop production. Hops must be harvested at the proper stage of development to insure the highest quality for brewing premium beer. In the late 19nth and early 20th century as many as 12,000 pickers were employed to harvest the crop.Hops enter commerce and are used in a variety of forms including dried cones in 200 lb. bales, hop pellets, hop extract, etc.