Behind the Barn Door: The Haw River Blog

filed under: Beer Culture, Beer, Sustainability
posted by: Ben Woodward

Growing your Next Pint through our Farmhand Exchange Program

One of the original concepts we sketched out during planning of our farmhouse style brewery in Saxapahaw was the idea of working alongside local farmers on an annual basis to grow certain ingredients for our core beers. It just makes natural sense—Alamance County is home to plenty of successful small farms that responsibly raise livestock, grow all sorts of delicious food, or forage for unique ingredients that grow wild here in North Carolina. We've got plenty of friends within spittin' distance of the brewery at Bushy Tail FarmHaw River Ranch, Braeburn Farm, Rocky Run Farm and Cane Creek Farm, among a number of others, all of whom can attest to the myriad benefits of locally-grown ingredients and responsibly-raised meats. The genesis of this idea has become our Farmhand Exchange program, within which we work with local farms and artisans to source ingredients for many of our beers on an annual basis, like using fresh Masui Dauphine figs in our barrel-aged Wild Rye in Black saison or locally-grown and -malted barley & rye in our Regent's Rye Tripel.

But we recently considered: If we can successfully work alongside local farmers to grow many of the ingredients for our full-scale batches, why can't we do the same with local gardeners and casual hobbyist growers who have a few raised beds in their backyards? Why not work alongside the folks who drink our beer every day and happen to live just down the road to help grow smaller amounts of more unique ingredients for one-off batches on our pilot system? 

Tangerine Gem Marigolds

The answers to those questions took shape and evolved into an idea that we're excited to officially announce: a new facet to our Farmhand Exchange program where we work directly with our neighbors to help us grow different ingredients for special small batch beers each season! Starting this spring (in just a couple weeks, actually), you're invited to visit our tasting room in Saxapahaw to pick up two different seed packets, completely free of charge. This season, we're offering seeds for two really great ingredients: Organic Ground Cherries and Tangerine Gem Marigolds. Ground Cherries, sometimes called Pineapple Tomatillos, grow on small bushes within a papery husk and slightly resemble Cape Gooseberries, but have a really unique sweet/savory tartness to them. And Tangerine Gem Marigolds are a type of signet marigold, offering a pleasant, citrusy aroma and a spicy, herbal, floral flavor (which should work wonders in a bright summer saison, but could also be used in your kitchen in green salads, deviled eggs or potato salad).

By choosing interesting, unique ingredients to grow locally and use in our own beers, we're hoping we can turn local gardeners and homesteaders onto new small-scale crops for their own families, while attempting to help spread the concept of growing your own delicious foods that many folks may not be familiar with. And by purchasing back a portion of the fruits, veggies and flowers during harvest season at market value, we're able to put a little money back into the local economy for the benefit of families just down the road and involve our customers in the creation of what should be some really fun beer to make. And each year, we'll select a couple of different plants, veggies, flowers or fruits to work with our friends and customers to grow and use in our beer later during harvest season, so we hope to continue introducing new ideas to our community and making great beer from locally grown ingredients!

Ground Cherries

If you're a local gardener or small farm manager and are interested in being a part of this year's very first Community Farmhand Exchange project, simply visit our tasting room in Saxapahaw on Saturday, March 7th or Sunday, March 8th, during regular business hours (2-8p both days), and pick up your free seed packets (feel free to stick around for a flight or some friendly conversation, if you're so inclined). It's pretty much that simple! We'll just ask to hold onto some contact info, so we can keep in touch throughout the season, in case you have questions or concerns about the process involved with growing either of your seeds, and then later on so we can touch base around harvest time to let you know when we'll want you to bring your harvest back our way to be included in our beer! The seed packets are being handed out on a first-come, first-serve basis (if we run out, we'll probably just source a more, but it may take a couple weeks for any additional packets), so let us know what questions you may have, and we'll see you next weekend!