A man recalls his years on a hop farm in Sauk County
Hop Culture in Days Long Past
Upstate New York was the center of commercial hop production in the United States in the early nineteenth century. Many Yankee farmers brought their hop growing skills westward to Wisconsin in the 1830s and 1840s and established major hop farms in Waukesha County and, in particular, Sauk County. By 1867, over 27,000 bales, weighing over 200 lbs. a piece, were produced in Sauk County alone. Because all of the work was done by hand, the demand for labor was strong, especially as the number of breweries needing hops rapidly increased. Special trains would bring thousands of workers from Milwaukee, mainly women, to work in the fields. John Rooney recounts here his experiences working on Sauk County hop farms in the 1860s.