Documenting Hops: Growing and Harvesting, Then and Now

By Christina Milliman

Many people local to the Mohawk, Leatherstocking, and Catskill regions know that historically this area was known for the cultivation of hops. But when? Do we know when those seemingly wild hops that now grow on our properties, in our fields, and on our mailbox posts were planted? When were Otsego and Madison Counties known for producing the “King Crop”?

In the collections of the Fenimore Art Museum and The Farmers’ Museum are books, diaries, letters, hop rhymes, tools of the trade, and photographs that tell this story. By 1880, Otsego County hop yards grew and sold the most hops of any place in the United States. Hop yards owned by Taugers, Clarks, and Buschs in Otsego County produced a majority of the hops – 80% of the entire U.S. crop. Have you ever seen a hop cone? Picked one? Held one in your hand?

Hop Pickers, ca. 1880-1899
Hop Pickers, ca. 1880-1899, Arthur J. Telfer, glass plate negative, H:5 x W: 7 in. Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of Arthur J. Telfer, Smith & Telfer Photographic Collection, 6-01,222.

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