In the early 1880s, Western Washington becomes one of the world's major hop growing regions after blight destroys much of the European hop crop. Hops are a bitter plant in the hemp family used to flavor beer.
In 1882, King County farmers cultivated 200 acres that yielded 300,000 pounds of hops. The crop sold for $180,000 with expenses totaling a mere $30,000. As Thomas Prosch exclaims in his "Chronological History of Seattle...," "Never before or since were prices so high" (287-288).
Farmers rapidly converted their land into hop fields. By 1888, more than six million pounds were harvested statewide and this increased to nine million pounds by 1890. King County supplied more hops than any other county. Native Americans provided much of the labor force to pick the hops.
Until 1889, the hop crop was disease-free. The hop aphid first appeared around 1889, and by 1891, whole fields were infested.
At the present time (2001), Washington is the country's number one producer of hops. Most are now grown in the Yakima Valley.
Thomas W. Prosch, "A Chronological History of Seattle From 1850 to 1897" typescript dated 1900-1901, Northwest Collection, University of Washington Library, Seattle, 287-288, 384; Michael A Tomlan, Tinged With Gold: Hop Culture in the United States (Athens, Georgia: The University of Georgia Press, 1992), 37; Linda Ashton, "Trouble in the Hops Industry, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, September 19, 2001, p. B-5.
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