Virgil Gamache Farms, Inc. is fourth generation organically oriented hop farm in the heart of the Yakima Valley. We began farming in the Yakima Valley in 1913. The first version of the farm was named Sunshine Ranch started by the patriarch Albert Gamache. It was on this land, that the company’s namesake, Virgil W. Gamache spent his formative years. The family raised alfalfa, wheat, corn, potatoes, apples and juice grapes.
With the end of Prohibition in 1932, the Gamaches lost no time in planting hops. By the mid 1940’s, Virgil and his brother Francis took over the farming duties from their father Albert. Virgil eventually became the sole proprietor and passed the farm along to his sons. It was renamed Virgil Gamache Farms, Inc in his honor. The family has continued to refine the techniques that define hop growing, adopting new technologies without forgetting the artistic methods of the past. In fact, some of the fields that were planted back in 1932 are still in production today.
A few years after Virgil retired and passed the farm onto his sons, a discovery was made. An unusual hop was found growing out in a hop field. It was significantly different than anything that had been grown on the farm to date. The hop was designated VG (Virgil Gamache); XP(Experimental); 01 (Number One). Although retired from the day-to-day operations of the farm, Virgil witnessed the beginnings of an entirely new chapter for the farm.
The family began to market the carefully cultivated, VGXP01 hops as “Amarillo® brand.” The hop started off slowly at first, with just a few pounds being trialed here and there and gradually grew until twenty-five years later, Amarillo® hops are a popular and well-known aroma variety used around the world. Amarillo® brand hops are widely acclaimed by craft brew enthusiasts for its unique aromatic properties.
Answering the call of the craft brewing industry, VGF’s operations have not only grown in scale and geographic area, but also in the adoption of novel technologies and practices. Originally VGF hops were all cultivated at Sunshine Ranch. Today, VGF’s auxiliary production program produces under license, a significant volume of Amarillo® brand hops outside of the home operation. VGF partner farms grow Amarillo® across the Pacific Northwest; in Washington, Oregon and Idaho as well as multiple regions in Germany. VGF’s in house, quality control laboratory Hoptechnic® monitors hop quality to assure the ideal harvest time and aroma profile. Thus, today’s VGF continues to perfect the art of producing great hops for great brewers.
The Gamache family have a love for the Pacific Northwest. It began when great grandfather Albert Gamache first settled in the Yakima Valley in 1890’s. That love of the land is demonstrated in the sense of stewardship that guides the day-to-day culture at Virgil Gamache Farms.
One facet of stewardship is through sustainable farming. Our best practices combine traditional organic principles including composting and planting triticale as well as more advanced principles such as using rosemary essential oils to deter pests and citrus oils to reduce weed growth. VGF has also implemented the novel use of drones to introduce beneficial insects to reduce pest pressure.
Virgil Gamache Farms, Inc. makes a continued effort to improve in the areas of increasing biodiversity, enhancing good agricultural practices, and upholding food safety standards via the implementation of programs such as Global G.A.P., Salmon-Safe and HopTechnic’s quality assurance program. VGF operates with the health, safety, and welfare of both the employee & customer in mind.
Living in the semi-arid desert of the Yakima Valley, the Gamache family understands that water is a precious resource. The farm has made water conservation gains by converting from rill irrigation to highly efficient drip irrigation systems. We have a highly motivated team of individuals who inspect the irrigation systems daily looking for wildlife or mechanical damages and monitoring water quality. This allows us to direct the limited water resources specifically where needed and in the right amounts. VGF takes care to recycle everything, from damaged hop poles, stretched trellis wires, motor oils and consumer-grade cardboard waste. All these practices work to uphold the conservational principles of our namesake Virgil Gamache.