Madison County celebrates its heritage with Hop Fest

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ONEIDA — The 25th annual Madison County Hop Fest is a celebration of the past, present, and future of the local hop industry. The event started at the Oneida Public Library with a movie and presentations by local hop history experts.

“When Hop Was King in Central New York” was shown, a 30-minute movie going over the history of hop growers in Madison County. Following that was a presentation by Carl Stearns, a former partner in Crawford And Stearns, Architects, and Preservation Planners. He’s known among his contemporaries for his rural preservation efforts in Madison County.

“If you want to see a modern-day hop house, go visit [Chad] Meigs at [The Bineyard] in Cazenovia,” Stearns said. “It’s basically a pole barn that has a harvester in it, and a gallery of plywood partitions used to dry hops... But the ones [I’m interested in] are the ones that were obsolete starting in the 1920s — if they even lasted that long.”

Many hop houses around the state need work to stay standing and a historic center, but that requires specialist work. But thanks to a bill Senator Rachel May is co-sponsoring, hop houses and other historic barns around the state will have a chance to be saved, officials said, adding that the bill and its companion in the state Assembly would provide a tax credit of up to 25% for the rehabilitation of historic barns — something that was cut in 2018.

“It’s exciting to learn the rich history of hops in Central New York, but it’s even more exciting thanks to the renaissance it’s experiencing,” May said. “You see this all around the country in craft beer and manufacturing, but it’s here too. And we want to make sure Madison County and this region stay a historic center for hops growing.”

May said Sen. Michelle Hinchey, the head of the Agricultural Committee, is co-sponsoring this bill and is happy to see it make it through both houses of the legislature.

“We’re just waiting for Gov. Kathy Hochul to sign it,” she said. The Preservation League of New York State is more than happy to see this legislation move forward.

“The 25% tax credit promotes barn rehabilitation, vital in retaining remaining historic barns in every corner of the state,” Preservation League officials wrote in a letter of support. “Not only does [this bill] pay homage to New York’s agricultural history and architecture, it also provides an opportunity for thoughtful reuse, community enjoyment, eliminating landscape decay, as well as circumventing the negative environmental impacts of demolition.”

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