On May 29, PNW Ag Network attended the Women in Manufacturing event, "A Day in the Hop Industry" at John I. Haas. While there, we spoke with Haas' VP of Manufacturing, Amy Johnson.

PNW Ag: I am here at John I. Haas for the “Day in the Hop Industry,” with the Vice President of Manufacturing, Amy Johnson. Tell us about the event today.

Amy Johnson: We had a Women in Manufacturing event, hosting manufacturing professionals from around the state. It was a great opportunity to showcase what we do here at Haas® and in our processing plants. Most people don't realize everything that goes into making hop products.

PNW Ag: I did not. It was a beautiful tour. I enjoyed it a lot. I don't happen to drink, but we got to taste the hop water.

Amy: It is made with one of our newest products, HopKick®. Somebody on the tour said, the hop water made with HopKick tastes almost like a health drink.

PNW Ag: Yes, I like that idea. Do you give tours throughout the year or is this just one time?

Amy: We do tours for special events. Our busiest season is harvest in the fall. In September, brewers from across the country and even different parts of the world come to Yakima. They come here specifically for hop selection. They select the hop lots that they're going to buy and use in their beer, and they take tours of all the plants too at the same time. It's a fun time of year. That's when there's a lot of activity because we're taking in hop bales and starting our plants up for another busy season at the same time.

PNW Ag: The three-woman panel today discussed the manufacturing, the ins and outs of Haas for the whole group here. How were those women selected?

Amy: We decided as a committee and discussed who would best represent manufacturing. Stephanie Conrad is our Chief Financial Officer, so that made a lot of sense. She knows everything about the business, having been with the company for 33 years. Tracy Watrous-Kelley is our Director of Advanced Products. She brings her own unique perspective having a varied manufacturing background - where Stephanie and I are kind of homegrown here at Haas, Tracy's got a lot of outside experience from different industries and she's an amazing leader. So, we thought that she would be a good representative on the panel. And then I'm the Vice President of Manufacturing.

PNW Ag: What's your favorite thing about working here?

Amy: I can't say just one thing. This is a good company full of good people. Stephanie mentioned during the panel, that Alex Barth - who's part owner and used to be CEO - just stepped up to the Haas board. The Barth family and our leadership team is amazing. We've always been a family-owned company, but as our Chairman of the Board has said, we are a family company - not just a family-owned company. Haas has given me every opportunity. I've been able to become a Health and Safety Specialist through OSHA-authorized programs and achieved multiple other Lean Manufacturing and leadership certificates over the years. I'm active in the community and Haas supports community involvement. We've cultivated a great working environment and we're always trying to improve it. The company embraces continuous improvement at every level. Moreover, dealing with hops, a natural product, ensures that each day brings fresh challenges, keeping things dynamic and engaging.

PNW Ag: Are there any new exciting products that are coming out?

Amy: We have a lot of new products coming out this year. HopKick® and Euphorics™ were both just released; HopKick is a 100% hop-derived aqueous extract that enhances existing flavors or delivers a wonderful hop flavor and aroma in hop waters, seltzers, teas, kombuchas, and beer, while Euphorics is a highly concentrated, water-soluble flavor and aroma liquid product made with 100% natural hops and botanicals and used in seltzers and beer, post-fermentation. We have other new products coming out soon too. We're part of the Hop Breeding Company, where we're 50% partner with Yakima Chief. We're constantly developing new hop varieties with different flavor profiles.

PNW Ag: Do you feel like this was a good event and do you think you’ll do more with the Women in Manufacturing?

Amy: Absolutely. We're currently discussing the idea of organizing tours tailored to college and high school students, with a special focus for females. It's surprising how many are unaware of the lucrative and enjoyable career opportunities available in manufacturing, particularly here in Yakima. Reflecting on my own high school experience, I had limited knowledge about the hop industry. It seemed straightforward: picking, drying, and selling hops. However, the reality is far richer. We boast jobs across three manufacturing facilities, a dynamic R&D department, a research brewery, and multiple cutting-edge quality labs, all contributing to a much more intricate narrative. Beyond hops, Yakima's agricultural sector is also a hub of science and technology. Take apples, for instance—the level of automation and technological advancements in packaging warehouses is truly remarkable.

PNW Ag: I believe hosting such tours would be fantastic and enlightening for them, demonstrating that women can thrive in these fields. The allure of technology will attract them, as the landscape of life is evolving rapidly, and many fail to grasp the complexities of the agricultural and manufacturing sectors. It's not solely about traditional field work anymore. Organizing tours would be invaluable for showcasing the nature of career opportunities in these new areas. Thank you immensely for considering it!

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