The Raleigh, North Carolina News & Observer has an interesting article, Brewers Have High Hopes For N.C. Hops, about farmers in the state, centered in the mountains around Asheville, experimenting with planting hops.
Hoping to build on the craft-brewing and local food movements, N.C. State University researchers in Raleigh and a handful of farmers in the mountains are growing experimental plots of hops, the cone-shaped flower clusters that brewers add to beer for bitterness and aroma and as a natural preservative.
Rob Austin, Deanna Osmond, and Jeanine Davis at NCSU got a $28,000, one-year grant this year from the Golden LEAF Foundation to investigate the commercial viability of growing hops here. In March, a couple of volunteers from a soon-to-open Durham brewery called Fullsteam came to help researchers plant a small plot of about 200 plants at a university field laboratory near Lake Wheeler south of Raleigh.
With tobacco demand presumably in steady decline, it would certainly be interesting to see the south rise again with farmers turning to hops.