While the production of beer has been around for centuries, Saskatchewan’s craft brewing industry is booming and continues to grow year after year. JGL Shepherd Farms saw an innovative opportunity within this growing industry to develop and grow hops (hops are used as a bittering and flavouring agent in the brewing process).
“Growing hops combined our family’s education, work experience and interests. We can grow a local product, develop personal relations with craft brewers in the province, negotiate our own prices and see our product flavour some of our favourite Saskatchewan craft beers,” said Guy and Lori Shepherd, owner and operators of JGL Shepherd Farms. “It’s exciting to see and taste the results of our labor, while doing a small part to grow the Saskatchewan economy and craft brewing industry.”
The Shepherd farm, located near Moosomin – Fleming area, has been in the family since the 1930’s. In 2016, Guy and Lori’s son Justin – an avid home brewer who shared his parents’ interests in hops – wanted to ensure the farm stayed within the family. That would mean the farm needed to be economically sustainable to support future generations and the best way to do that was through a value-added agricultural product.
Learning how to grow (and later market) hops to match the standards of Saskatchewan’s craft brewers was no easy task. Their biggest challenge was a lack of hops-growing resources.
“Due to the low number of resources, we had to do a lot of research and become the local experts,” said Justin. “Growing hops continues to be a steep learning curve, but we know it’s possible within Saskatchewan. We’re continually growing and trying new techniques to be leaders within the marketplace.”
That research combined with forward-thinking technologies has paid off. JGL Shepherd Farms planted their first crop just four years ago and now provides hops to craft breweries across Saskatchewan including Rebellion Brewing Co., Malty National, Pile O’ Bones, 9 Mile Legacy, and Saskatoon Brewing.
“Walking through JGL’s hopyard and seeing the level of passion they bring to growing hops was inspiring,” said Mark Heise, President of Rebellion Brewing Co. “As a craft brewer, we carefully select all our ingredients to make the best beer possible. Our customers expect the best, and we can’t let them down. Holding the hops in my hands, smelling the fresh aromas and seeing the bright, luscious cones they were able to grow, I could tell their hops were going to make for a great beer.”
When it comes to growing their business, the family said their local credit union played an important role in helping them be agile within the farming industry and get their operations started. JGL Shepherd Farms has worked with Conexus Credit Union since 1990 and said it’s been both a great source of information and a valuable sounding board for expansions.
“Over the years, Conexus has been our partner in our business ventures which have grown from a cow-calf operation with sales of excess hay, to a grain farm, to the formation of JGL Shepherd Farms,” said Guy. “Our Conexus business advisors have always supported us, encouraged our farm’s growth and guided us towards success. Being local, they understood our needs which gave us confidence in their advice.”
As a growing hops farm unique for its attention to detail, quality and the aromas that come from their product, JGL Shepherd Farms is helping put the province on the map as a place to experience craft beer made from Saskatchewan-grown ingredients.
“When people think of hops, we want them to think of Saskatchewan.”
About Conexus Credit Union
Conexus is an innovative credit union committed to our members and their financial well-being. As unique as your farming operation, we’re here to help you succeed with advice that works for you and your business. Located across Saskatchewan, we are Saskatchewan’s largest and Canada’s sixth largest credit union. As a credit union, our profits are returned to our members through our rates, no-fee accounts, community investment and more. Visit Conexus.ca/business for more information.