The Feasibility of Small Farms Growing Hops and Specialty Grains Profitably in Howard County
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This project assessed the potential profitability of growing hops and grains for alcohol production on the fewer than 200 farms of 520 acres in Howard County, MD. Currently, few of Howard’s farms are able to make a profit on an annual basis and none of the farms made more than $10,000 in annual sales in 2012. This is due to high operating costs and thin margins on agricultural products. The County’s farmers have a mix of farming experience, ranging from lifelong farmers to those who have acquired farms in the last few years. This report provides background on the basics of growing hops and grain crops, assesses the market for these agricultural products in the Baltimore/DC region, and makes recommendations for farmers to profitably grow these crops. To develop this report, the team conducted site visits and interviews with farmers, farm bureau representatives, University of Maryland agricultural faculty and extension school subject matter experts, and the owners and staff of local breweries, distilleries and homebrew shops. The team also reviewed data from the Howard County Farm Bureau and the USDA Census and conducted academic and industry research on hops and specialty grain farming in the Northeast.