Gayle Goschie grew up on her family’s hop farm in Silverton. Summers, she was in the fields with the hand labor crews.
After high school she took off for college, attending the University of Oregon and then Portland State University, her favorite.
“That was the early 1970s. Back then women weren’t expected to choose family farming,” said Goschie.
She enjoyed the Portland urban scene and took her political science degree to a small advertising agency, where she shot photos, laid out ads, made color checks at the printer, wrote copy and did whatever else needed doing. “It was fun to be a part of that creative world, but persuading people to buy one brand over another didn’t have the soul I was looking for,” she said.
She came back to the family in 1981 and has remained. Today she is one of three women in Oregon who manage hop production on family farms out of 25 such farms in the state.
On her return, she focused on her Spanish language skills. Her improved communication increased efficiency and involvement. “It’s been so enjoyable to me to have deep personal relationships with our employees, who have been with us for a long time. To be able to have employees come back every year and know exactly what to do and take pride in their work is huge,” Goschie said.
She continues to be the main person who works with the hand labor crews, but she shares ownership and responsibility for the 1,000-acre family farm with her two brothers, Gordon and Glen.
Gayle is the face of the hop business, in charge of overall management including sales and marketing. For 35 years, their major hop customer was Anheuser-Busch. “We had a unique, personal relationship with their family. We sold our hops direct to them and exchanged visits to the farm and brewery. We hosted many of their researchers here,” Goschie said.
Then in 2008 InBev bought Anheuser. Hop contracts were cut, and the demand for Cascade hops dropped. At the same time, craft brewing was coming on strong. Gayle began doing business with Deschutes, Bridgeport, Widmer, HUB, Pelican in Pacific City, 10 Barrel, Sierra Nevada, Firestone Walker in California, New Belgium and Odell in Colorado. “We have customers in Wisconsin and Michigan and continue to work east,” she said.
The craft brewers have gone from being a small part of the industry, where they were accessing their hop supply casually and without contracts, to a segment that has formalized where and how to get their hops, Goschie said. Brewers have brought more emphasis on hops as an essential ingredient.
“It’s been a delight to work with them. They are so passionate about what they’re doing,” Goschie said. She told about receiving an e-mail from a local brewer that was written at 2 a.m. praising the great quality of her hops.
The connection to the buyer is crucial. “It makes us better to know what’s important to the brewer,” she said The emphasis on hop varieties, new profiles, and new varieties goes hand in hand with learning more about the growing process. Gayle works with OSU extension scientists and researchers and attends industry meetings and seminars.
“Craft brewers have thrown a big change into the industry, similar to the wine business. When you taste a chardonnay wine, you know that it’s made from a chardonnay grape. Beer consumers are very aware of IPA, Cascade hops and their many subtle nuances. There’s a re-energized emphasis on hops and consumers who want to get educated about them.”
Summers, like always, Goschie spends most days in the fields, watching how the hops grow, checking for problems and or advantages to a particular variety, assessing how complicated or well a variety grows under different conditions and practices. Fall harvest is around-the-clock controlled chaos.
Still, Gayle finds time for her favorite off-farm activity—hiking. The Columbia Gorge is where you will most often find her hiking.
As a member of the American Lung Association she trains people to climb Mt. Hood, a climb she accomplished in 2009. She made it to the summit of Mt. Rainier in 2012 and this summer plans to climb Mt. Adams, the brother to Mt. Hood in Native American legends and the one who won the heart of Mt. St. Helens.