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3/15/2014 3:58:00 PM
Hop heritage part of Mount Angel
Mount Angel Historical Society
Workers pick abbey hops.
Mount Angel Historical Society
Workers pick abbey hops.
Hop pickers gather at Mount Angel farm.
Hop pickers gather at Mount Angel farm.
Sisters went from cloister to fields
MOUNT ANGEL — In 1935, at the height of the Great Depression, the Mount Angel hop industry was suffering, ironically, from a scarcity of pickers. The crop would spoil on the vines of more workers could not be found. These were the days of working by hand.

The Benedictine Sisters at Queen of Angels Monastery learned of the crisis. Despite their demanding teaching duties, more than 20 nuns came out from the cloister and into the fields, working alongside farmhands and farm owners.

The story was told throughout the state.

It reminded some old-timers then of another time the Sisters ventured into the hop fields. In 1897, it was not the hop crop that was in danger of being lost, but the Sisters' monastery itself. The financial panic of the time sent shock waves and the Benedictines were in danger of losing their land.  

The Mother Superior sent the nuns into the local hop yards to earn money and save the religious venture. Many ended up in "The Baron's Hop Yard," owned by Baron Boesenlager and rented by the Kronberg family.

One of the nuns who worked in the heat for two weeks in 1897 was Sister Joanna.

In 1935, when Mother Edith allowed the Sisters to head out to the farms again, the spritely Sister Joanna was one of the first to volunteer.

That year, the local newspaper summed up the story like this: "Perhaps this generation will pass before the Benedictine Sisters again venture forth to the hop harvest, but the memory of their courageous contribution in the work of saving the present crop will live long within our hearts."

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.


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