In real estate parlance, the mantra is “location.” In the food and beverage industry, the trending buzzword is “local.”
For Delaware farmers considering growing a new, alternative crop — malt barley — the perfect word just might be “proximity.” Growing malted barley close to the needs of a new neighbor and industry partner, Proximity Malt Company, could turn out to be lucrative for farmers in the mid-Atlantic region.
University of DelawareCollege of Agriculture and Natural Resourcesresearchers andCooperative Extensionspecialists at theCarvel Research and Education Center, a 347-acre agriculture research station in Georgetown, are examining the viability of growing malt barley in the Delmarva region in order to meet the demand of a thriving craft brewing industry and a strong consumer preference in sourcing local ingredients.
The demand for malt barley across the United States is at an all-time high. Delaware businesses, breweries and distilleries have enjoyed a good portion of the tremendous success occurring across the country.
But, can malt barley perform well in Delaware?
Traditionally, malt barley for the brewing industry is grown in cooler, dryer regions with higher altitudes where it thrives in moderate summer conditions.
Delaware has grown barley for years as cattle feed with a low return on investment. Delaware might not be the first state that comes to mind when considering malted barley, but opinions are changing with the arrival of Proximity Malt Company in Laurel.
Vic Green, associate scientist for variety testing at the Carvel Center in Georgetown, said growing malt barley as a winter crop could be a good fit for Delaware farmers.
Proximity is headquartered in Milwaukee and has a malt house in Colorado.
Proximity’s investment in a full-scale malt house in Laurel at the former Laurel Grain property places their operation close to shipping and transportation infrastructure. Sourcing barley locally fits with Proximity Malt’s sustainable business philosophy to reduce reducing transportation costs and lower the environmental footprint.
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