Hop Mission


In case you’ve been wondering what has been going on at the Holmes Hop Yard….

**If this is your 1st time visiting the Hamilton Hop Mission and want to read from the beginning, please scroll down until you see the (*********) break in the page to experience the journey from day 1.

Since my last post a lot has happened because of all of our supporters. 

This spring, we purchased our 800 hop plants.
with a lot of help from family, my girlfriend Lindsay and her daughters Lauren & Ashley, they were all planted into the Holmes Hop Yard this past fall. 

Fast forward to Labor Day weekend: planting weekend. My mother, father, and sister made a trip to the farm so we could get those plants in the ground! The process took three days all together: prepping the land, measuring and marking plant locations with flags, planting, and finally, the first watering. Each of us took on a different role and before we knew it, we had a pretty good system going, one plant at a time. Over 800 hop plants planted in two days by seven people. We were exhausted and man were we happy we waited until the summer heat died down.

It is truly amazing that the 7 of us were all able to do it together as a big family, it really made this experience much more special.

We were also able to purchase all the hop trellis hardware, start prepping the hop trellis and get a few other things ready for the growth that will begin in Spring 2017!

A few weeks after planting, we had to start preparing the plants for the winter so that they can go dormant and start growing again in the spring. To protect the hop plants, we took the old hay and sheep manure that was set out for compost last year and covered each plant. This provides thermalized protection while strategically feeding the plants with nutrients for their first growing season, a method they used on the farm many years ago.

Originally, we had planned to do a spring 2016 planting, but after careful thought and research, we chose to plant in the fall instead. We still had to finish the improvements to the main water source for the plants, the pond. After all, sufficient water is one of the most important aspect of growing hops.

Luckily, we chose the right spring for the job and the 15ft depth pond filled up full in 2 weeks!

The timing worked out perfectly. I was able to enjoy the summer with friends and family while further developing the Hamilton Hop Mission and spreading the word. We had a large family reunion at the farm for the 4th of July, just like the old days, even my great aunt (the family historian and the one who originally told me about our ancestors and the Holmes Hop House, pictured in the middle) was able to make the trip…very special!
4 generations of the family bloodline in this picture

The support we received from everyone was tremendous and more family members started to help out with the mission.

We designed t-shirts and set up a booth at the 4th of July parade in the park in the Village of Hamilton.
We raised money, got to share our exciting goals, sold the cool hops shirts, and received wonderful feedback from our fellow community members as well as a bunch of great advice and support!

Earlier this year, my father came to the farm to visit and we came across something spectacular, an original oil painting of a local double kiln hop house from many years ago.
This new finding inspired us and we thought “why can’t the Holmes Hop House be a double kiln….well I guess it will just have to be bigger then!”  

It was then we decided to go on a slight detour from the plan and go on the hunt for another barn to make that dream a reality.  Over the next few months, we were able to acquire two more historical barns. 

The 1st barn standing at 200 years old, completely hand hewn, and ready for dismantle…we were at it again!  The same 3 men who dismantled the Holmes Hop House took on another barn project in Throop, NY of the Finger Lakes Region.  For 3 weeks we traveled an hour and fifteen minutes everyday to accomplish this mission.  With a little more help from our friends at Admar Supply Co we had it down and in route to the farm. 

The 2nd historical barn, again a rare find on craigslist, was taken from the Pleasant Valley of Marcellus, NY also in the Finger Lakes Region.

After more help from my dependable pals Justin and Kyle at Admar Supply Co, Lindsay, Tyler Betts, the Pleasant Valley barn was loaded and shipped off to the farm. 

Both barns will now be added to the Holmes Hop House to help create a giant double kiln on the hill, just above the Holmes Hop Yard and the new and improved Spring pond.

While doing some repairs and organizing of the back room in one of the houses, I came across a box of family pictures…old family pictures.
In the "driveway" at the Harold Holmes Dunham residence.

Little did I know, my passion to bring hops back to the farm was validated, yet again, by our ancestors.  They left a gift and I strongly believe it was a welcome home present.

The Dunham Farmhouse, built in 1802, with hops growing up the side of the porch.

This is a picture of the Harold Dunham residence (HH Dunham—Harold Holmes Dunham) which looks out over the Holmes Hop Yard and soon to be the Holmes Hop House.

The Poolville Hop Pickers. As I analyze the picture it looks almost identical to the field where the Holmes Hop Yard is on the Farm.

We have had continued success with the Hamilton Hop Mission thus far and we are so grateful to everyone who has showed their support in one way or another. We have come a long way but we still have more to go. The trellis system is up, the hops are in the ground, the spring pond is full, and the next step is the installation of an irrigation system to get the water from the pond to the plants. The cost to develop and install the irrigation system is $4,000. Unfortunately, I am not able to provide enough funding by myself to keep this mission at the pace it’s going.  We're asking for your continued support to help continue this journey as we uncover and rediscover the past of Hop production in Madison County and the history of hops, especially on our very own family farm.

For those of you who decide to continue supporting the Hamilton Hop Mission, thank you!  All of us involved in the Hamilton Hop Mission appreciate donations of any amount.

Let’s bring hops back to Hamilton! Grow it local and drink it local!

P.S. WE STILL HAVE T-SHIRTS! Every person who donates $100 or more will receive a free Hamilton Hop Mission T-Shirt.

***********************************************************Hello, my name is Drew Dunham, the son of Mike Dunham.  I am the 8th generation of our farmstead family tree in Hamilton, NY. The Founder of our farm, Alpha Dunham, settled here in the earliest of the 1800's in the beautiful landscapes of Upstate NY.  A place that has been called 'Home' for all my ancestors throughout their lives.  They spent their years maintaining, planting, growing, harvesting, raising children and livestock, producing milk, corn, beans, wheat..etc.  You name it and it's been grown on this farmland.  If one were to visit the working Dunham Farm at any point in time over the past 200+ years they would've heard cows moo-ing, sheep baa-ing, tractors roaring, farmers yelling, children laughing, dogs barking, horse hooves clicking, dinner bells ringing....BUT now, it's silent! 

My goal is to bring back that history and activity to the farm with a couple of my own touches for the future generations to enjoy.  One of them is HOPS.

A long road has brought me to where I am today in Upstate NY;  from being raised in the suburbs of Cincinnati, OH traveling back and forth to New York City pursuing a once aspired dream of becoming a familiar face in the movie business to returning back to this place of my deep family roots in Hamilton. After working several years as a model/actor and just when things were starting to look up.....I was presented with the most unexpected and irrational decision of my life when my Dad said "Drew, how would you like to move to the family farm?" Never in a million years did I expect it to forever change my life..

The fact of the matter is, I'm the last son of the bloodline...
I am the first generation to not grow up working this farm, so it only seemed right to begin planting my roots in this soil.  After all, the farm was in a severe state of disrepair and needed to regain it's strength. It needed a caretaker. It needed a Dunham.  So my Dad and I packed up the Uhaul and made the 10 hour trek to the farm.

3 years later...
I've now learned to manage contractors, oversee complete renovations of two 200 year old farmhouses, hunt for food, make repairs, build things, survive microburst storms and blizzards having to dig out 6ft snow drifts just to leave the house.  Some of you may think I am crazy, but I wouldn't take one second of it back.  It's molding me into the man I always wanted to be, I just didn't know it back then.

Here I am discovering a large sheet of metal in the barn covered in dust, which came out to be my Great Grandfather's cattle sign once displayed at the front of the barn.  

So, I put it back....

What's next?
In effort to share the past, educate as many people as possible about the once Hop Growing Capital of the Country, and give a glimpse of what life was really like back in the 1800's....I present to you my plan

After years of research, I've been very fortunate to have met many passionate hop culture gurus, growers, and historians throughout the area.  The things I've seen, learned, and the stories I've been told have taken my desire to a distinct new level.  

Lay of the Land
If you drive the winding hills of Central New York it's not uncommon to see and discover some of the oldest and most nostalgic looking structures ever built in American history, Hop Houses.  I decided I needed one at our farm.

How do I get an old Hop House?
I could build one, but then it wouldn't be authentic like the rest of the farm.
Well.....I guess I'll just have to find one from the 1800's and go from there...I remember saying to myself "Drew, this sounds crazy and impossible...What are you going to do if you actually do find one? I guess we shall see.."

After months of searching, knocking on doors, and visiting with those fortunate to have such a historical building on their property; I came up dry. Nobody wanted to sell.  I'm not sure if it's the work ethic instilled in my blood or the fire in my belly...either way, I refused to give up.

The day that changed my life...
One day mid-December when the wind was whistling harder than I'd ever seen, I came across an ad for an "old barn for sale" on Craigslist that may have once been used to dry hops.  Immediately, I called the guy and asked if I could come see this barn and he said "Sure, but you can't get inside because the snow has drifted up in front of the barn door,” but I just couldn't resist the urge. In the blistering snow, I ventured out to see this barn.  

Just as the man said, the barn was inaccessible.  I began to ask him more about the barn and how much he was asking for it.  Unfortunately,  he wanted several thousand dollars for the structure. At the time, being a part-time special education teacher’s assistant, I simply could not afford it.  I had to let the barn out of my mind and set out on a very depressing voyage back home.

Everything happens for a reason...
Many months later, something triggered my memory of this barn.  So I called the owner back and said "Do you still have that barn for sale?"  The gentlemen said "Yes, as a matter of fact, I do." I said "Great! Did it survive the winter? If so, I'll be there tomorrow to look at it." Sure enough the 200 year old post and beam structure withstood yet another brutal winter.  

When I arrived something just felt right. As I entered through the sliding barn door a sense of amazement struck.  

The barn was 100% authentic unlike any of the other's I'd seen! 

Keeping my emotions in check, recognizing that this is the moment it all comes down to, and with considerate and passionate negotiation...

I was able to make a deal with the guy to purchase the barn for $1.

However, there was a catch (of course).  I must agree to remove the barn and ALL of the contents inside of it....

Heaping piles of rubbish, scrap lumber, metal, rotten furniture, literally anything you can think of spread throughout both floors....and it stunk!  

BUT I still had this vision. 

Soon thereafter,
I rounded up my team, rented two 30 yard dumpsters, one machine, brought in our tools, and got to work.  
We removed every piece of rubbish with shovels and trash cans.

With crowbars and hammers, we started stripping it down board by board.
Time to bring in the claw!
Piece of cake....yea not really!

Even the rain couldn't stop us...

The tension and stress levels began to peak...

After working through the night....

And a very hot and strenuous 2 weeks...
Approximately 200 years later...The once standing hop house built by men to withstand all the elements of weather for centuries was rescued by 3 men to be re-vitalized and re-constructed 'as it was' for the next several centuries!

A BIG shout out!
To our motivational speaker and team anchor, aka Karl. The man that believed in me from the beginning.  Thanks for all your support, Dad!

Where is the hop house now?
The hop house now sits in labeled pieces at the Dunham Farm impatiently waiting to be re-built. With your help we’ll make this dream a reality and give one of Madison County's early 1800's historical hop houses a new life for the future generations to enjoy!

But wait, there's more...
Little did I know, this hop house had a lot more to say after it's 200 years of existence and history, what I was going to find out next is quite remarkable.

After dismantling the hop house, I anxiously attended the 20th Annual Madison County Hop Festival.  It was there that I ran into the Madison County Historian.   It didn't take long before I introduced myself and began sharing, with excitement, the undertaking of relocating this hop house from Holmes Rd.  The first thing she said to me was “Did you say Holmes Rd?” and I said “Yes” she said “You got the Holmes Hop House?” I said again, “Yes, I did” she said “Drew, that is fabulous! I've always loved that hop house. It's very very old and I'm so glad you have it!” With amazement, I responded, "well this experience just keeps getting better! "

Another historian had evaluated the Holmes Hop House, prior to my interest, and I'm told during the evaluation he found the hop house to be dated pre-1830's due to the approximate time period when the first saw mill was established in the area.  After further study, he came to find the main post beams had been spliced together to add height which indicates this hop house is older than it stands today. Leading him to believe it was re-built from another structure that was taken down and the beams were used to build this hop house.  That said, he was convinced this barnwood likely dates back to the late 1700's which now creates speculation that this is quite likely the oldest hop house in Madison County.

but then, something even more magical happened....

One evening, as I'm driving home from Rochester to the farm for the weekend, I decided to call my Great Aunt to tell her about our new Holmes Hop House.  I began to tell her the story about how we relocated this really old hop house to the farm.  

In the heart of it, 
She asked me: "Where did you find this hop house?"  
I said: "Off of Holmes Rd. in Cazenovia." 
She paused and said: “Oh my word! You're kidding...Drew, do you know what H.H. Dunham stands for?” 
I said: “Well, I know the 1st H stands for Harold, but I don’t know what the middle H stands for?” 
She said: “ Well, it stands for Holmes and that was the maiden name  of your Great Great Great Grandmother who moved to the Dunham Farm from Holmes Rd. in Cazenovia! Oh my word...It’s almost like she reached out to you to bring her childhood barn over to the farm where she raised her family, my ancestors.”

Immediately, the chills took over my entire body. 

Thanks to Aunt Nancy, Ancestry.com, and Kodak we were able to trace back more of the past!
 My Great Great Grandfather Harold Holmes Dunham (above left) with my Great Grandfather Theron "Skip" Dunham (above right)

(above) My Great Great Grandparents Genevieve and HH Dunham at the Farmhouse.

Now, we must install a Hop Yard, it's only right...
Shortly after finding out this overwhelming information about my heritage and this hop house, I called up the same 2 men that helped me disassemble the hop house and they brought the other son.  I said to them "Boys, there's a full load of logs headed to the farm and will arrive in 2 days. We're not quite done here." 

November 14, 2015
This was a very special day, not only because it was the day the very first hop pole was installed on the Dunham Farm, but more importantly my Mother's Birthday! 

The four of us men were able to mark, dig, place, and install sixty-eight 22ft black locust trees in 2 days. 
Giving you the very 1st Hop Yard on the Dunham Farm.

With a mere 2 second thought, I decided to officially name the yard respectfully and rightfully so, "The Holmes Hopyard".

The next plan is to re-construct the Holmes Hop House overlooking the new Holmes Hop Yard. 
Where the innovation and endorsement comes in.... As I've learned more and more about hops, I’ve come to understand that New York State was once the largest producer of hops in America.  The first hop farm was introduced in Madison County by James Coolidge in 1808 just a short few miles from the Dunham Farm.  It's said that hops were once the most prized crop in the area covering the fields. Unfortunately, sometime in the 1930-1940's most of the hops died off due to a lack in agricultural advancements, education, and preventatives . Today there are only a few sparse hop farms in Upstate NY. Coincidentally, we've even found stray hop plants in the hedgerows on the Dunham Farm...Therefore, we know that we still have life and the conditions to bring them back!

My overall goal is to help increase the awareness of hop production in Madison County. The place where hop farming originated in America.   

If you've read this far, you're clearly interested in my mission. It's my most passionate goal in life and I thank you, in advance, for your contribution to my success! Ever little bit helps.

With your help you will not only aid in the re-construction of one of the oldest hop houses in Madison County (which will be used to promote and pay tribute to the Hop Heritage and historical nature of the farm) you will also directly impact the production of hops at the Holmes Hop Yard on the Dunham Farm.

The costs for successful production include:
1) The complex trellis system
2) The creation of a pond and associated irrigation system
3) Hop Harvester
4) Hop Dryer
5) Hop Pelletizer 
6) All the other miscellaneous expenses that go along with starting a hop production.

Phase 1:
-Stringing and anchoring the hop trellis with cable & hardware.
-Purchasing the hop plants. (I currently have a $1,500 down deposit on 700 plants)
-Planting the hops
-Pond shaping
-Irrigation set up, materials, and hardware.

Phase 2 :
-Building a mobile harvest lift
-Purchasing a Hop Harvestor

Phase 3:
-Building Hop Dryer
-Purchasing Hop Pelletizer

For all you beer lovers out there and those who don't know much about hop growing just yet...a lot of hard work and equipment is needed to produce a healthy crop for everyone to enjoy in their beer.  With your help and your faith in me to succeed, I can promise that your contribution will do more than just help me. It will help the local micro breweries and others to enjoy and appreciate the process of hop gowing, the heritage, the production, and most importantly the beer!  All of The Holmes hops will be sold to the local craft breweries to be encorporated into their brews.

I invite all of you to continue this journey with me as we strive to restore the Hop Culture in Upstate NY.  We will continue to grow, educate, and share the Hop Heritage of Madison County and our beautiful country side.

I too will be giving back for the cause just like those who have already chosen to endorse this mission. If we reach 25% of our goal, I will donate half of the first year hop harvest to 4-H and the cooperative extension in the spirit of supporting agriculture and farming in America. If we achieve 50% of our goal, I will donate the entire first year of hop production.  If we reach 80%, I will donate 100% of the first 2 years production!  This is my way of giving back to all those generous enough to put forth a contribution and for the cause and support for agricultural farming in America.

Please help us continue the family Legacy for the next 200 years and help give back to the farming community
with this Hop Mission! Myself, my family, friends, laborers, and ancestors, all thank you!


Andrew M. Dunham & The Dunham Family


  • Katelyn Ishee
    • $100 
    • 6 yrs


Drew Dunham

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