This Friday meet Audrey Gehlhausen and Chris Dellabianca of Billy Goat Hop Farm LLC, located in Montrose, Colorado. Chris and Audrey’s passion for the industry started while working in different microbreweries in Idaho, and they eventually decided to start the process of owning an operation to grow hops. This operation is a dream come true for these beginning farmers, and it was made possible with hard work, determination, and a beginning farmer loan from USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA).
Chris found an internship with an 800-acre Idaho hop farm where he experienced all the aspects of the job throughout a full hop season. After the season, Chris and Audrey packed up their life to go on a road trip across five states to learn more and find the right land to start their own operation, eventually planting roots in Montrose in 2017.
Settling Down in Colorado
“We really enjoyed the craft brew scene, the people we were around, and the outdoors,” Audrey said. The town’s access to outdoor activities and agricultural resources like local cooperatives, irrigation companies, and a local USDA Service Center made Montrose a great fit.
Once settled in Colorado, Audrey and Chris reached out to their local FSA office to apply for a farm ownership loan to purchase their land.
Farm ownership loans can be used to purchase or expand a farm or ranch. This loan can help with paying closing costs, constructing or improving buildings on the farm, or to help conserve and protect soil and water resources.
“We would not have done this if that didn’t exist and that opportunity was not there,” Audrey said. “I don’t think we would have even gone on the road trip looking at properties without the FSA loan. We were really starting at ground zero for everything and a [traditional] bank isn’t going to loan you that kind of money.”
Once the land was purchased, Audrey and Chris utilized FSA’s operating loans to establish the stand of hops and to purchase farm equipment for harvesting, drying and baling. Operating loans help producers start, maintain, and strengthen a farm or ranch.
Billy Goat Hop Farm sits on 32-acres where they produce hops and brew beer, in addition to offering brews from other farms. They are currently partnered with eight local breweries on the eastern slope of Colorado and sell microbrews to over 120 different breweries across the United States.
Growing for the Future
Audrey and Chris recently received the prestigious Cascade Cup Award, judged by the Hop Quality Group. They submitted their sample and won first place, being the first ever to win outside of Washington or Oregon, the largest hop producing states in the country.
Outside of their success, Audrey and Chris are passionate about bringing awareness to communities about agriculture and the smaller producers.
FSA’s operating loans helped establish the stand of hops and to purchase farm equipment for harvesting, drying, and baling. Billy Goat Hop Farm
“[People] have gotten used to looking for local products and that’s normal,” Audrey said. “When you go to a local craft brewery, you are looking at supporting the local brewery, but you aren’t necessarily thinking where the ingredients come from.”
Audrey and Chris don’t plan to slow down any time soon. They have high hopes for the future and have set goals of selling out their hops before the next harvest and building a client base that cares.
Visit local farms, ranches, forests, and resource areas through our Fridays on the Farm stories. Meet farmers, producers, and landowners who are working to improve their operations with USDA programs.
USDA offers a variety of risk management, disaster assistance, loan, and conservation programs to help producers weather ups and downs in the market and recover from natural disasters as well as invest in improvements to their operations. Learn about additional programs.
For more information about USDA programs and services, contact your local USDA service center.
Elizabeth Thomas is the communications coordinator for FSA in Colorado.