Pair Hopes to Lead Hop-Growing Resurgence in Lodi

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LODI -- Nestled among Lodi's wine grapes is what some might see as an odd pairing -- hops.

Hops are a key ingredient in beer, adding a bitter, floral or even fruity flavor.

"Why hops? Well, they’ve always been a dream of mine to plant," Atomic Hops co-owner Art Prudhel said.

Prudhel dreamed of growing hops when he lived in the Pacific Northwest, and decided to take on the challenge in the middle of zinfandel country.

"Like that’s a pretty cool commodity to be growing, like, it’s interesting," Prudhel said. "Every day, it’s a new challenge."

Prudhel is a farmer, not a builder, and hop vines need something to climb on.

To build the trellises for the hops, Prudhel's dad paired him up with Thomas Bell -- who runs his own fence company.

"Art does the farming end of it and I do construction end of it. It’s a perfect fit for us, we really work very well together," Bell said.

The two joined forces and the first crop was planted last year. They plan to harvest starting Friday.

"Craft brew industry starting out and expanding to what it is now, really created the market that we’re in," Bell told FOX40.

Atomic Hops also plans to open the state’s first public processing plant for hops in Lodi.

While Prudhel and Bell are among a growing number of hop farmers in San Joaquin County, their hope is to lead a resurgence and a co-op.

One part hops, one part community.

“We’re here, we want to grow, we want to do something special and help the people that want to be a part of us grow and do something special as well," Prudhel said.

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