SIDNEY, Mont. – When the carefully-grown green hop cones start to sag on the vines, with each variety smelling unique and fresh, Sarah Rachor knows it is nearly hops harvest time.
Rachor, who farms with her dad, Mike Degn, south of Sidney, has been busy planning for end-of-summer fresh hops harvest, and preparing their machines for the upcoming sugarbeet and soybean harvest.
“The hops look really good. All the downy mildew is gone as the humidity has left,” Sarah said. Her husband, Matt, will be home from his job to help harvest hops. “Matt enjoys the hops harvest. He even has two rows of a variety he likes called Triple Pearl hops.”
For hops harvest, they will bring in a flatbed trailer, borrowed from a friend, to lay the hops on.
Sarah said they trim the bottom of the rows with the hedge trimmer, and then the top. The hops gently fall from the top, and lay over on the flatbed trailer.
“It is a clean way to harvest hops, and the whole crew will be here to harvest them,” she said.
After harvesting the hops, they take the pounds of fresh wet hops to selected micro-breweries for fresh hopped or wet beer.
Meanwhile, Sarah and Mike recently finished harvesting spring wheat.
“We had a good spring wheat harvest. My dad was pleased with how everything went, with only a couple of breakdowns,” Sarah said.
While they usually store all their wheat for now, Sarah did take a small amount in to the elevator to see how the quality was. “It was good quality, and we were happy to find that out,” she said.
They are still irrigating a few spots in the beet and soybean fields with the pivot because of the dry weather. Both the beets and the soybeans look good and are maturing on their way to harvest.
At Fresh Hopped Farm, the weather has been cool, in the 70s and 80s, with only one rain event that did not yield much moisture. All the crops continue to be about two weeks behind.
“We got a late start harvesting wheat because it was behind. In fact, we finished harvesting our wheat last year on the same day we started combining this year,” Sarah said.
She has taken advantage of the break between spring wheat and fall harvest to get the machines ready to go.
Sarah needed a few parts for the beet machines, so she went into town before the Labor Day holiday to pick them up.
“I need to tighten a bed chain so the beets will roll up to the rollers to the elevator from the digger,” she said. “Chains get loose over time. Last year was a wet harvest, so the mud was really hard on the chains.”
All their beets will go straight from the farm to the factory.
Sarah gets a lot of help from their young part-time worker, Jonathan.
“Jonathan is learning a lot and he helps us with everything here on the farm,” she said.
On the home front, Megan is enjoying school, and can’t wait for the bus to get there in the morning to take her.
Megan will join 4-H this year, her first year in the youth organization.
“Megan also took part in an after-school art project at the MonDak Heritage Center. It was amazing,” Sarah said.
Meanwhile, Sarah said her parents are celebrating their 44th anniversary.
“We hope to get a little time to go in to town and have a special dinner with them to celebrate,” she added.
Photo: Sarah Rachor, mom
Sarah Rachor with her mom, Jill, who is always a big help around the farm and with Megan.