Impact Focus: The Role of Regenerative Agriculture in Sustainable Hop Production

At Yakima Chief Hops (YCH), we are committed to leading proactive land stewardship through storytelling, education, and advocacy. Our dedication to regenerative agriculture is reflected in our Green Chief® Program, which promotes sustainable practices that benefit our growers and the environment.

There has long been a misconception that agriculture negatively impacts the environment and that crops only take from the land. But what if we told you there's an approach to farming that contributes to the land while still allowing farmers to reap a bountiful harvest? It's called regenerative agriculture.

Follow along as we outline the importance of regenerative agriculture in the beer industry and its potential to mitigate the effects of climate change associated with traditional farming practices.

What is Regenerative Agriculture?

Regenerative agriculture is not a new concept; it's a philosophy of environmental and social stewardship practiced by indigenous peoples for generations. It encompasses a set of farming principles and practices that aim to rehabilitate and enhance the entire farm ecosystem. These practices include conservation tillage, crop rotation, and polyculture – which is planting compatible species together to limit pests, suppress weeds, and improve soil health.

Below is a breakdown of practices that create thriving populations of microbes that break down organic matter into topsoil and include:

  • Organic Methods: No synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers are used. Farmers control pests through non-toxic methods like crop rotation, using mulch to suppress weeds, and fertilizing with compost. YCH growers are at different stages of introducing natural detergents to fight pest pressures.
  • Cover Cropping: Farmers grow crops like lentils, alfalfa, and clover instead of letting land lie fallow between main cash-crop seasons. Cover crops increase soil organic matter, produce natural fertilizer, draw down carbon, and reduce erosion. Cover cropping is widely adopted by growers in all three of YCH’s sourcing regions.
  • Composting: Waste from the farm is converted into compost, teeming with soil-building microbes. Compost acts as a natural fertilizer and mulch, helping soil retain moisture and suppress weeds. Each grower utilizes their own methods of composting on their respective farms.
  • Rotating Crops: Crop varieties are rotated yearly to avoid depleting specific nutrients and prevent disease and pests from proliferating. Nitrogen-fixing crops like legumes add nutrients to farmland.