When Peter Lines is not in the thick of the annual hop harvest or harvesting juicing grapes from his 40-year-old vineyard, he is perpetually “pottering around and getting things done” on his Wai-iti property, ‘Totara Terrace.’
“I used to play golf, but that didn’t last. I would rather be here on the farm, pottering around and improving things,” he says. “I like to keep busy.”
There is also beer to brewed.
“The brewing sort of happened by accident. It started out in 2009 as just a bit of fun with Colin Oldham from New Hoplands and an old cobber of mine, Ross Ford, who has worked for me for more than 15 years.
“We were buying in kegs of beer for the workers, but because I had the necessary health licence for the grape juice production, we decided we should give it go - making our own beer.”
An experienced brewer was hired to help the trio get started and he devised a beer they named ‘Drovers Draft.’
“I made up the rest and, over the years, I’ve fine-tuned them,” Peter says. Nowadays, ‘Hop Farm Brewery’ is the only brewery located on a hop farm, sourcing its hops from the property. Each week, the team produces 1000 litres of four different beers, including ‘Kahurangi Pilsner,’ which is made using green hops from Colin Oldham’s hop gardens.
Peter is 63, but he already has 50 years of hop-farming under his belt.
“I left school as soon as I could because all I wanted to do was work with my father on the farm.
“As a kid I’d help Dad before school each day, after school and all weekend,” he says. One of my earliest memories is of playing in the hop rows while my mother hand-picked the hops.
“I was still a young man when I bought part of this farm from my parents. By the time I was in my late 30s I’d taken over as Totara Terrace’s hop farmer.”
Nestled beneath the hills alongside the main highway south of Wakefield, the Lines family’s farming business “started out small,” with Peter’s great, great grandfather, John Lines, planting hops and milking cows. Each generation bought more adjoining land until the farm eventually spread over 100 hectares. Today, the main highway divides the property; 15 hectares of hop gardens and the processing plant flank one side of the road, while the family home, the hop kilns and the 40-year-old vineyard are on the other.
Peter’s wife Marlene (they’ve been married for 42 years) is very much involved with the business, working on the hop-picking machine every harvest and managing the sales and marketing of the grape juice.
“We planted the Albany grapes purely to produce grape juice. That was in the 1980s when there was a glut of hops in the industry, and we were struggling to get enough reliable irrigation for the gardens.”
As successful as the beer brewing and grape juicing are, Peter says the hops will always be his priority. He’s the hop farmer and manager, the harvest helmsman and the kiln operator. During harvest-time, he stays nearby the kilns all night for 27 nights, catching short spells of sleep in a small office he jokingly calls ‘the penthouse.’
“I’m the fifth generation of Lines hop farmers on this property,” he says, proudly. “There is a lot of history here. Our son, Stace, and his wife Katie are looking ahead to one day taking over, becoming the sixth generation of Lines farming hops. In the meantime, I’ll continue to work hard and keep myself busy doing all the extra stuff that will improve the farm.”
Written by Victoria Clark – 2021