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Business Profile

Loza Farms

Loza Farms1

While hops have certainly leapt to the forefront of beer drinkers’ consciousness in recent years, they are nothing new to Leon Loza. He's been growing them for 45 years. Over 30 of those years were spent working on farms owned by others, then 14 years ago he and his family realized their dream.

“Opening my own farm was a risk. I knew how to grow hops, but not how to market them.”

So, as Leon describes it, he began the ongoing process of any brand-new business owner. “I've been learning as I go,” he says with a laugh.

That process has included serious growth. Loza Farms began as 64 acres of hanging hop vines amid the grain fields southeast of Yakima, and now sits at more than five-times that size. Leon, his family, and a few hired hands produce 18 varieties of hops, which are supplied to brewers large and small, from Anheuser Busch to Sierra Nevada to Ballast Point and many others.

“The most important thing for me is that my word is good. I don't sign a contract unless I am certain I can come through for the buyer. That's not always true in this business.”

Even with an emphasis on integrity and an explosion of demand for the flavor-packed hop cones, success was not a given. “I didn’t know how well it was going to go during that first year,” Leon remembers.

He is quick to point to his partnership with INB as a key to his growth, and he’s not shy about calling out a specific staff member. “If it wouldn’t have been for Nancy Boettcher, I wouldn’t be in business,” Leon says. “She looked at my business, believed in me, and helped us succeed as we financed the buildings and equipment we needed to grow.”

There is risk and reward in any business, but there is something ancient and satisfying about the moment a year’s bountiful harvest is safely stored away. Once all of the hops are harvested and claimed by buyers, that’s when it’s time to party at Loza Farms. “We love to celebrate with all the family and the workers and hand out bonuses, because it takes so many sets of eyes on everything to make sure we have a great year,” he says. “Everyone has their specific part in the process, from my my wife Mimi and I to our [adult] kids Leon Jr., Mike, Veronica, and Claudia, to all of our hired staff.”

Aside from that annual celebration and working alongside his loved ones, Leon derives his greatest joy from the purity and quality of the crop he grows.

“The best feeling is when a buyer is checking out their options and they pick our hops blind, just from the smell. When someone who really knows hops picks up a handful of our El Dorado variety, smells them, and wants to sign a big contract on the spot… then we know we’ve done our work. That’s the greatest compliment for someone in my industry.”