Island farmers hope to hop on craft beer boom by growing barley

Six P.E.I. farmers have been test-growing about a hundred hectares of malting barley for the last three summers

Almost all malting barley grown in the Prairies

With so many beers drinkers switching to craft beer, there's an increasing demand for malting barley. (CBC)

Some P.E.I. farmers hope to cash in on the craft brewery craze by growing malting barley. 

Six Island farmers have been test-growing about a hundred hectares of malting barley for the last three summers.

Until recently, most of Canada's malting barley was grown out West, but beer habits have changed dramatically.

"The craft brewing industry has exploded," explained Aaron Mills, a research scientist at Agriculture Canada in P.E.I.

"People want local products and brewers want to use local ingredients in their beers."

Malting barley has always been a Western Canadian crop. (Canada Malting Company)
Agriculture Canada and the Atlantic Grains Council are both encouraging the local barley farmers.

Mills has been helping find high-quality varieties that grow well on the Island and make good tasting beers.

Farmers are interested because malting barley is earning them $25 more a tonne than regular barley.

The general manager of the PEI Grain Elevator Corporation, Neil Campbell, says farmers would earn even more if there was somewhere closer to home to process the barley.

"The biggest obstacle is we have to ship it back to Montreal, to Canada Malts," said Campbell.

Malting barley can be a profitable crop, but what's needed is a closer barley processor. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
"The farmer's losing $60 a tonne on that freight. That's a lot of money. That's the difference between profit and not making any profit."

Campbell and Mills believe it's only a matter of time before a local malt house opens, thanks to all the new microbreweries popping up.


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