Oral History: Alna Hopyard and Farm

Interview Summary

Mike Barker, one of the owners and founders of Alna Hopyard and Farm, discusses the challenges of beginning and sustaining a hopyard in Central Maine. Barker begins by detailing his life prior to owning the hopyard. He had always known that he wanted to start a farm, but wasn’t sure what kind of produce he would grow. He eventually decided on hops. He explains how he chose the fertile soil of the Maine Midcoast to produce hops.

Barker discusses some of the successes and failures of growing hops over the past seven years. It is a slowly growing industry, and Barker was one of the few growing hops commercially in New England. Even today, he struggles with being able to produce enough hops to meet the demand of breweries and homebrewers. He currently sells fresh hops, whole hops, and hop pellets with a focus on the Cascade variety. Barker explains that brewers in Maine might be hesitant to adopt a more experimental product like his, but he is grateful for the breweries that have taken this leap of faith. Barker predicts slow but promising growth for the hops industry in Maine. His goal for the future is being a part of a self-sustaining beer market in Maine where everything is grown locally. 

The interview was conducted by Torsten Brinkema and Emily Nyman in October 2019.