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Don Norton Oral History Interview, January 18, 2017

Oregon State University
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00:00:00 - Interview introduction

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Partial Transcript: Okay, so go ahead, introduce yourself

Segment Synopsis: Norton introduces himself, and provides his birth date, birth place, the current date and where the interview is taking place.

Keywords: Hop farming; Hop farms; Organic hops

Subjects: Bend (Or.); Hop (plant); Hops; Organic farming

00:00:29 - Childhood memories / Family history

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Partial Transcript: So where were you born?

Segment Synopsis: Norton describes the area near Eugene where he grew up, his observations of old hop farms in the area, and his interest in the outdoors as child. He discusses his interest in education as a teenager and now, and his participation in track and field during high school in Oakridge, Oregon. Norton also details the environment of Oakridge, and how his family was involved in local business there. He explains the different things he’s learned about his family as he’s gotten older.

Keywords: Hop farms; Hop oasts; Outdoor activities; Taverns

Subjects: Automobiles; Education; Eugene (Or.); Family history; Hops; Oakridge (Or.)

00:09:01 - Early work experiences

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Partial Transcript: So you get through high school. Then, what were your post high school plans?

Segment Synopsis: Norton describes the various jobs he’s had in industry since moving back to Eugene after graduating from high school, and how he ended working in his current day job for 26 years. He discusses how the business culture of Eugene has changed over the years, and how he’s tried to document those changes through photography. He then notes the various challenges he’s faced as a small farmer in competing with larger hop farms and vendors for business with breweries. Norton states his hopes in finding a niche market for his hops within the craft brewing industry.

Keywords: Amateur photography; Business monopoly; Business replacement; Factory jobs; Factory labor; Hop farms; Hop vendors; Small farmers

Subjects: Concrete plants; Eugene (Or.); Eugene (Or.)--History--20th century; Hops; Industrial work; Local history; MANUFACTURING; Small businesses

00:14:07 - Developing the hop farm

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Partial Transcript: So what made you decide that you wanted to start a hop farm?

Segment Synopsis: Norton details how became interested in opening a hop farm, and how that relates into his lifelong interest in gardening. He states his interest in specifically growing hops in order to meet the needs of local businesses during shortages of the crop in 2008. He then discusses the information sources he used when designing his farming model, and how they influence his farming practices. Norton also describes the ways he’s developed his own farm tools and how he originally overcame the need for mechanization.

Keywords: Affordable farming; Farming tools; Home brewing; Hop farms; Hop shortages (2008); Machine innovation

Subjects: Experiential learning; Farm mechanization; Gardening; Hops; Inventing; Small farms

00:19:29 - Lessons from hop farming / Farm mechanization

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Partial Transcript: What are some of the changes that you have made?

Segment Synopsis: Norton discusses his main challenges in establishing his hop farm, specifically in farm mechanization and disease management. He details his issues with developing machinery for farming on a small scale, and how using machinery is crucial to successful harvest. He then describes his attempts to harvest his hops through hosting harvest parties as was historically done, along with the presence of the other farms around his and how hop farming has moved across the Eugene area of the Willamette Valley.

Keywords: Downy mildew in hops; Hop harvest labor; Hop harvest parties; Hop varieties

Subjects: Disease resistance of plants; Downy mildew; Farm mechanization; Hop pickers; Hops--Diseases and pests; Hops--Drying; Hops--Harvesting; Small farms

00:33:37 - Experiences in home brewing

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Partial Transcript: So home brewing, that was the other- I had thought about writing it down

Segment Synopsis: Norton recounts how he became interested in homebrewing in the 1980s, and how that relates to his learning style. He explains how his introversion relates to his learning style, along with his pride at being self-taught in different skills. Norton then describes his brewing methodology, and his access to homebrewing supplies in Eugene.

Keywords: Brewing experimentation; Brewing laws; Brewing supplies; Brewing supply shops; Home brewing

Subjects: Beer and brewing; Experiential learning; Introversion; Introverts; Self-teaching materials

00:37:14 - Selling hops as herbs / Developing as an organic farm

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Partial Transcript: So talk about the people that you work with in herb shops

Segment Synopsis: Norton notes the different herbal uses of hops by various herb businesses, and how the business focus has changed for the herb company he sells to. He discusses his business relationship with the local herb company, and the frustration of trying to increase sales with them. Norton then describes his management practices as an organic farmer, the challenges of balancing time between the farm and his day job, and his hopes in developing business with local breweries.

Keywords: Hop varieties; Hops (herbs); Hops in herbalism; Hops--health benefits; Retail herbs

Subjects: Aphid parasites; Beer and brewing; Herbalism; Hops; Hops industry; Hops--Harvesting; Integrated pest management; Organic farming

00:43:55 - Marketing strategies for herb shops and brewers

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Partial Transcript: So what about, are there certain varieties that people

Segment Synopsis: Norton describes the process of selling hops to the herb company, and how that process conflicts with maintaining proper storage of the crop. He notes the growing interest in understanding different hop varieties, along with his strategies for promoting himself as an organic farmer. He explains his interest in specific hop varieties, and his intentions to sell different varieties to different audiences.

Keywords: Farming practices; Hop experimental varieties; Hop varieties; Hops--biology; Hops--storage; Marketing strategies

Subjects: Alpha acids; Beer and brewing; Breweries; Herbalism; Hops; Marketing; Organic farming; Plant biology

00:49:11 - Maintaining organic requirements / Participation in the farming community

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Partial Transcript: So I'm wondering, what would it have been like to have a conventional yard

Segment Synopsis: Norton describes the process of maintaining his status as an organic farm, especially in mitigating the effects of nearby conventional farms. He discusses how community has started to develop between farmers in his area, and how he’s met new neighbors through that development. He also recounts how farming in the area has changed over time, and how his farm is starting to grow.

Keywords: Conventional farming practices; Farming communities; Mt. Pisgah Arboretum; Organic farming requirements

Subjects: Agrotourism; Community participation; Hops; Oregon Tilth Certified Organic; Oregon Tilth, Inc.; Organic farming

00:58:13 - Teamwork in farming / Participating in the American Hop Growers Convention

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Partial Transcript: So, what- I do want to talk a little about the kind of access

Segment Synopsis: Norton states the most important parts of cooperating with other farmers in an increasingly competitive market, along with the concern of mixing crops with other farmers. He then discusses the reasons he’s participating in the American Hop Convention, including learning more about hops and communicating with his machinery vendor. He describes the various attempts he’s made to get information about hops from agriculture extension services.

Keywords: American Hop Convention; Competitive markets; Hop Growers of America; Hop farms; Hops specialists

Subjects: Agricultural Extension Service (U.S.); Farm mechanization; Hops; Introversion; Self-teaching materials; Teamwork

01:03:30 - Sales plans for the future / Oregon history

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Partial Transcript: Well, were there things that you wanted to talk about that we didn't

Segment Synopsis: Norton explains his current processing efforts for his hops, and how he wants to transition into pelletizing his hops in the future. He comments on his shyness, and how he enjoys discussion about hop farming. Norton also discusses some the most profound things he’s learned about local history, particularly in availability of jobs for indigenous peoples and housing for hop pickers during the 19th and 20th centuries.

Keywords: Harvest labor; Hop pelletization; Hop pellets; Hop vines; Hops--baling; Jobs for American Indians

Subjects: American Indians; Beer and brewing; Breweries; Craft shops; Florists; Hops; Hops--Harvesting; Indigenous peoples; Introversion; Local history; Oregon--History