It’s time for a little personal post. I’m finally starting to catch my breath this wedding season and I thought I’d share why I haven’t been blogging lately. It feels a little weird to me to go months without posting without giving an explanation. So where have I been? Well to start, in January Scott and I officially started 2 new businesses. Last year we had this crazy idea and dove in head first, even though it could mean breaking our necks.
It started last summer… It was Memorial Weekend and my college girlfriend was in town visiting. We were on the deck enjoying some frosty beverages, painting rocks and catching up. Our conversation turned to how much we were loving all of the new craft beers and how they were made with different hops. Jokingly we talked about buying the farmland next door that recently went up for sale and starting a hop farm. And ya know? Why not tie my photography in and offer it up for weddings, the hops could make for a beautiful backdrop…
And so we decided to do it. We bought the property last July and Scott and I started dreaming of hops and weddings and we began working on our idea to make it a reality. And with help of the MISBDC, EDA, MSU Extension, Techport, Spartan Innovations we are on our way.
The end of 2015 left us reeling when we presented our new business idea for Hoppily Ever After in the Port Huron Greenlight Competition. We spent months preparing and in December we pitched our idea to a panel of judges. We had 4 minutes to cover our entire plan in a “Shark Tank” style presentation.
I was so nervous, literally shaking in my boots up there. But not Scott, he’s a natural. That’s one of my favorite qualities in him. His ability to stay calm in any situation.
Some of our family came for support and we all agreed that there were so many great ideas and amazing businesses in the competition. Some of them already doing great things for the community so when they announced Hoppily Ever After for 1st place we were taken completely by surprise!
We spent our winter learning all things hops and beer related. We researched varieties. We read as much as we could about farming and equipment. We researched the hop and beer industries, attended the Great Lakes Hop and Barley Conference, spent lots of time talking with other farmers and with the help of new found friends at the SBDC we created a business plan.
Our win at the Port Huron Greenlight Competition got us an automatic seat in the Michigan Greenlight Competition that would take place in March. So we worked on polishing our presentation and getting ready for the next competition. I’m serious when I say that we didn’t think we stood a chance. We were going up against start-up businesses that were going to change the world developing cures for tuberculosis and marijuana breathalyzers and we here we were dreaming of hops, love and beer. Regardless if we were going to win or not, we had a great time and it was an awesome experience to be a part of.
Turns out they liked our pitch and we won $1,000 for most creative and original idea!
This spring we started making our idea and dreams a reality when we installed the trellis system and planted our first 323 hop plants on our new farm.
We created a space for a wedding venue. We started clearing land and creating spaces for gardens and an alternate ceremony site for when the hops are not in season.
We’re learning to become farmers. We’ve had to learn about broken down equipment and weed control. We’ve literally put our blood, sweat and tears into this summer. It has been some back breaking work. Most nights this summer we watched the sunset from bed, too exhausted to stay awake past 9:00.
We’ve had to learn about what a dry summer does to your crops. Watering our plants by hand trucking 1000s of gallons a week from our pond was a 3 hour process and has come a long way from the beginning. Yes plans are in place better irrigation system. 🙂
Scott and I both turned 40 this year and spent our days working on the farm. He didn’t want to do anything for his, and while we agreed no big parties this year, we did decide to invite a few friends over for drinks in the gardens for mine because , well I’ve busted my butt on these this year and I think that birthdays should be celebrated. 🙂
We harvested for the first time on our 14th wedding anniversary. Our goal of getting the plants around the ceremony rooted worked and we got to pick cones!
1 year later, we own 45 acres and have started a hop farm! Our first year crop is sold and we have 2 weddings scheduled for next year! Never in a million years did I imagine I’d be saying I live on a 45 acre farm. In fact I drove the tractor home from the farm for the first time yesterday and was laughing so hard I must have looked crazy to the woman who waved as she passed me in her suburban. Me. A farmer?!?! The thought of it still makes me laugh…
This year has been the craziest experience. The physically hardest. The busiest. The most gratifying. The most exhausting. And I’m so proud of us. I’m proud of what we’ve created. Where we’ve taken this crazy idea. And there’s no way we could have done it without the support of our family and friends. Specifically these four. They’ve been here all year long. They’ve busted their butts for us. They’ve bruised and bled with us. They’ve listened to us and helped us through the days where we wanted to break down and give up. They share their knowledge and their labor. And we are the luckiest people in the world to call them our friends and consider them our family. Corey, Jessica, Brad and Tracy, there aren’t enough words to thank you.