If you ever find yourself traveling along the North Thompson River across from Westsyde, you might view something quite puzzling. Stretching out for 220 acres is a forest of poles and wires. What you are seeing is Hops Canada, a hop farm that is the brainchild of founder Joey Bedard. The farm was established in 2015 in partnership with the Tk’emlups Indian Band.
The 27-year-old entrepreneur, an Ida Supply customer himself, estimates he will sell more than $2 million worth of the flowering plant from his warehouse located in nearby High Country Cold Storage. A brokerage company has been set up to buy and resell the hops to pay the bills down on the farm.
The farm is a multimillion-dollar investment in irrigation, equipment, and labor. Sixty-five acres of hops were planted in March 2015. The remaining 155 acres were planted in the spring of 2016.
Bedard believes Hops Canada is offering the right product at the right time. That belief is supported by a study released in 2015 for the provincial and federal agriculture ministries, stating that the demand for hops is exploding, fueled by astronomic demand for craft beer. In B.C. alone, Province newspaper beer writer Jan Zeschky estimates there are 130 craft breweries.
Bedard has always been driven by an entrepreneurial spirit. While he grew up in a farming area in Ontario, his business experience involved building remote camps in Northern Alberta for the oil patch and fishing camps on B.C.’s West Coast. Add in a number of other companies he started and sold before Hops Canada and you’ll get an accurate picture of the depth of this young man’s ambitions.
Bedard raised capital for his latest business venture by selling two-thirds of Hops Canada to the Tk’emlups Indian Band. However, the farming operation was not his original idea. His initial intent was to open a craft brewery. He quickly realized, though, that the market was flooded with new entrants. That’s when he recognized this popular trend represented another opportunity: supplying those brewers with the hops they desperately needed.
Hops Canada currently employs about 10 people year-round, with another 15 to 20 seasonally, making the business an excellent source of long-term revenue for the Tk’emlups Indian Band as well as an employer for people in the community.
Always looking ahead, Bedard has stated that the next phase of the business involves installing a processing facility. This facility would enable Hops Canada to convert the fresh hops into dried or pelletized form; that’s the way most all hops are sold and shipped and it’s the preferred form for brewers everywhere.
Still, the pelletizer equipment needed to grind and reconstitute the hops is expensive and the process is a delicate tightrope walk— should the hops become overheated during reconstitution, all of the essential oils and aromas that make them the brewers’ best friend is lost.
Looking to the future, Bedard has stated that he plans to expand the farm acreage and start growing his own varieties of hops through a selective breeding program. That’s a wise goal as many of the most preferred hops in the world are licensed and protected. Developing a preferred hop that brewers want and is only available from Hops Canada would protect the local business from future market downturns.
Hops Canada owner Joey Bedard’s accomplishments, as well as his plans for the future. makes one realize just how dedicated Hops Canada is to providing unparalleled customer service and the highest quality products. It’s a company led by an entrepreneur who possesses a passion for hops matching those of his customers, the craft brewers.