Nestled on the outskirts of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, GEMS Farm Hops exemplifies agricultural perseverance and entrepreneurial spirit. This 15-acre farm, owned and operated by Mike and Sharon, a husband-and-wife team, redefines what it means to grow hops in a region typically deemed unsuitable for such a venture.

Cultivating Success

GEMS Farm Hops

Gems Farm Hops has 3.5 acres of planted hops, making it one of the largest hop farms in the state. Despite the challenging climate and soil conditions, the farm specializes in growing five USDA varieties: Comet, Triple Pearl, Tahoma, Newport, and Mt. Hood. These varieties are not proprietary, so they can be grown and enjoyed by many.

Local Collaborations, Unique Flavors

The process of growing and brewing hops is steeped in science. Mike emphasizes that "it really is an experiment," and this sentiment is echoed by the local brewers who frequently visit the fields and participate in the harvest. Each season, everyone involved learns something new, adapting and refining their techniques to combat challenges such as fungal threats. These collaborations result in unique flavor profiles – such as Carlisle Lights offered by Molly Pitcher Brewing Company in Carlisle -- that emerge from the hops grown in the clay and limestone soil of the farm. The flavor also varies by how the hops are fertilized and cultivated, making each harvest a new and exciting experiment in flavor.

Mike and Sharon's dedication to quality and community is evident in their collaborations with local craft breweries, according to Cassie Fourlas, Vice President, Molly Pitcher Brewing Company Taproom on High. “Using fresh hops is always a good idea and makes for a great beer, but being able to source fresh hops grown mere miles away from our brewery makes it even better,” says Cassie. “Over the past few years, we have sourced a variety of hops -- though we love their Comet the most -- from Mike and Sharon at GEMS. Each season, we brew a Comet Harvest Ale using all fresh hops from GEMS, and it is consistently one of our best-selling beers. However, our personal relationship with them far exceeds any business relationship. Mike and Sharon don't just sell hops. They are part of the community and actively promote and support their friends in this brewing world. They grow some pretty spectacular hops, but the relationships formed in their hop yard truly sets them apart.”

GEMS Hops Farm

GEMS also works closely with head brewers from other local establishments, such as Maxi's in Shippensburg and Back Porch Brewing in Carlisle, both participating locations on the Cumberland Valley Beer Trail.

Commitment and Dedication

Running a hop farm is no small feat. For Mike and Sharon, it is a daily commitment that requires unwavering dedication. The couple self-funded the farm, demonstrating their belief in the potential of their land and their passion for hops. Their hard work peaks during the 10-day harvesting window for each hop variety, from early August to mid-September. After the hops are harvested, they are dehydrated and pelletized, with the farm producing approximately 800 pounds of hops per acre each season.

Words of Wisdom for Aspiring Farmers

For those inspired by Mike and Sharon's success and considering a venture into hop farming, here's their advice: "Think long and hard about it. Start small, with one acre. See how you like it and see what grows in your area. Or go big and start with 10 acres. Nothing in between." This pragmatic approach underscores the importance of understanding the unique conditions of your land and being prepared for the challenges ahead.


Gems Farm Hops is more than just a farm; it symbolizes innovation and resilience, virtues that perhaps reflect Mike's naval career. Mike and Sharon have turned their retirement endeavor into a thriving business, supporting local breweries and enriching the craft beer scene with locally grown hops. Their journey demonstrates what can be accomplished with dedication, experimentation, and a deep sense of community.