Mount Angel Historical Society
Workers pick abbey hops.
Mount Angel Historical Society
Workers pick abbey hops.
MOUNT ANGEL — Mount Angel hop farmer John Annen has heard tales about how his great-grandfather followed the Benedictine monks to Mount Angel when they came to build the abbey. The Annen family has farmed in the area ever since. Now, Annen grows 16 hop varieties on 265 acres.

The abbey sits on a hill over looking 4 B Farms, run by the descendants of Mathius Butsch, another 19th century farmer who played a key role in developing the town, including cutting lumber for the first church. The family has grown hops on and off since 1910.

Hops, a key ingredient in beer, are part of the heritage here. The abbey itself farmed acres and acres of hops in an industry that supplied bales of the soft, fragrant cones to Annheuser Busch and Portland's Henry Weinhard Brewery.   

At one time, the Willamette Valley grew half the hops produced in the United States. The end of prohibition stepped up production.

During picking season, thousands of people came to labor, bringing the whole family and even the dog. They stayed in tents or cabins provided by the grower for as long as a month. The hop yards became like small towns, with a camp store and a deputy sheriff to keep order. A history of Mount Angel by Sandra Graham and Bonita Anderson says there were Saturday night dances and often summer romances among the young folk.

Henrietta Saalfeld, a longtime Mount Angel resident, in 2010 told Our Town newspaper that during the 1930s, her father sold the family store and sent her and her siblings into the fields to pick hops. Henrietta awoke at 4 a.m. to work in the cool of the day.
Oregon is now the second largest hop producer in the U.S., with Washington first and Idaho third. Oregon produces about 17 percent of the U.S. market share or about 5 percent of the hops grown in the world.