Hops are very susceptible to blight, including molds, fungi, insects, and grubs. In order to maximize growing conditions, the hops were tied to poles that were twenty to thirty feet tall. The vines were secured to the pole using cloth or burlap strips. This kept mold and fungi in the soil from spreading and destroying the vines. Farmers would also use a tool called a grubber. A grubber not only helped reposition the hop poles, but also killed grubs that matured in the soil during the summer.
Hops were usually harvested in late August by groups of local farmers or by "city pickers." These were people who came from the cities to the farms as workers. The pickers were paid by the number of baskets they filled. Despite the tediousness of removing small twigs and leaves from the hop fruit, hops harvesting was seen as a social event.
At the turn of the twentieth century, hops harvesting remained strong in New York State. In 1903, the state was still considered the main producer of hops in the nation. However, as early as 1857, hops had been grown in California by a Vermont native who brought hops seeds on his transcontinental journey. Other western states also began to grow hops, such as Wisconsin in the 1860s, Washington in 1866, and Oregon in the 1880s. From 1903 to 1914, the United States exported ten to twenty million pounds of hops mainly to England and Canada.
Population growth, city expansions, and socio-economic factors eventually led to the demise of the New York hops industry. The prohibition of alcohol in 1914 severely hurt the hops industry. The Great Depression also hurt American farmers. From the 1930s to the 1950s, hops production continued to decline in New York. Today, hops are grown mostly for local or personal consumption. The main species grown is Humulus lupus, which is not native to America. Even so, the United States is second only to Germany in hops production, and Washington State, not New York, is the country's biggest producer of hops.
(For more on the history of hops, please see other hops images.)
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Describe the scene in the photograph and discuss the amount of labor involved in harvesting this crop.