Farmer diversifies into growing hops
by Ruby Arsenault, Employment Coach/Facilitator with the Tignish Employment Resources (ER) Centre
Mark Gaudet is a third-generation farmer who grows potatoes and raises dairy cattle at his family-owned and operated farm located on the Western Road just outside Tignish.
Now he also grows and supplies hops to local breweries and has found another unique way to use his product.
After completing university and graduating with a Bachelor of Science and a major in biology, he had a strong passion for agriculture, and it was no surprise when he moved back home to the farm. Mark quickly jumped into learning more, growing the farm and finding ways to diversify.
In 2018, after much research and support from other growers, he started Prince Edward Hop Farms with 20 perennial hop plants. The hops were harvested and sold to a few local Island breweries producing Island beer, including Moth Lane Brewery in Tyne Valley.
“I learned by trial and error that growing hops for retail requires a lot of work and attention,” says Mark. “They grow on 18-foot trellises. Because mine are a native species, they are susceptible to various diseases and insects.
“Today, my hop farm has grown into a one-acre property. Thankfully I have the support of some amazing friends and family members who assist me with the fall harvest and drying process.
“I was very fortunate to have harvested before last fall’s hurricane, and the beer Moth Lane Brewery made with my hops was called Fiona’s Furry. To have my produce as part of an Island beer is very rewarding.”
What are hops used for?
Hops are used primarily as a bittering, flavoring, and stability agent in beer, and depending on the hops variety, add floral, fruity, or citrus flavors and aromas. Hops also act as a preservative and were originally included in beer to make it last longer.
A new way to use hops
“After last year’s season, I had extra crop and began to think about other ways to use the hops for income,” says Mark. “So, I started a line of soaps.
“After a family member shared a soap recipe with me, I started the process of mixing the natural essential oils from the hops with olive oil, and then added lye and various scents to create my unique hop-infused soaps.
“Our soaps contain zero harsh chemicals, loads of hop essential oils, and there are many scents. The soap is made with natural organic ingredients.”
To gauge consumer interest in his soaps, Mark created special packages for holidays such as Christmas and Valentines Day, and the items sold out fast. “I was very pleased so I contacted SkillsPEI to access their Self Employ PEI program which allows me to draw EI for up to a year while I work to grow the soap business.”
Self Employ PEI is an employment benefit program developed to help unemployed Islanders who want to launch their own businesses. The program provides financial support and business counselling to new entrepreneurs during their first year of operation.
“I am an Islander and I want to focus on my Island-made products across PEI,” says Mark.
“I have increased the size the bars to 148 grams, and all soaps meet Health Canada guidelines.
“Some satisfied customers have commented about how refreshing their skin feels using the hop infused soap bars after swimming in pools or the ocean or after a hard day’s work outdoors, and how both children and adults with skin issues have no reactions.
“My wife and I love to use these products on our baby,” says Mark. “And as a farmer who works long days outdoors, I very much enjoy the feeling of being refreshed after using this soap in the shower.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION
contact Mark Gaudet at 902-237-6407.
Drop in on location at 42091 Western Road, Tignish PEI.
Search Prince Edward Hop Farms on Facebook.