My Workspace: Among the Bines Life on a hop farm at Segal Ranch
written and photographed by Catie Joyce-Bulay
Martin Ramos, ranch manager of third- generation hop farm Segal Ranch, has been working with hops for more than thirty years. Once dubbed the “hop whisperer,” Ramos was trained by USDA hop research scientist Chuck Zimmerman, a renowned innovator in creating new hop varieties. “I don’t think I possess any magical capabilities,” Ramos said. “I wish I did.”
The 470-acre ranch grows ten varieties of aroma hops. “It’s a unique plant,” Ramos said of the perennial bine that grows on 20-foot poles throughout the Yakima Valley. “A lot of people, when they drive by and see all those poles, they wonder what it is.”
Martin also tends two small vegetable gardens on the farm, where he grows several types of hot peppers, including a variety he acquired on a trip to Mexico ten years ago. Every harvest, the brewers Segal Ranch works with are invited to a Mexican- style barbecue, with tortillas made fresh on-site and Ramos’s peppers flavoring the dishes, all complemented by the hoppy beers the brewers bring to the party—one of Ramos’s favorite parts of harvest.
With the scent of fresh hops strong in the air during harvest, brewers gather at the ranch for selection, where they do the rub-and-smell test on different varieties harvested at different times to decide which they want to brew with. Ramos won’t make crop predictions at the beginning of the year—“Just when you think you understand this plant, it will surprise you”— but once the crop is harvested and he watches the brewers inhale the earthy aromas, he’s not nervous. “I know the hops are good.”