This carte-de-visite came to me from Massachusetts, but it didn’t originate there. The title of the post is taken from a handwritten note on the back.
Update: Readers all agree that the location referred to was most likely the village of Leeds in Kent:
The British Hop Association has the following information on its website:
The UK harvest usually starts in early September and depending on varieties grown and size of farm, it may continue into early October. Tall hops are harvested by cutting the whole bine including string and taking it to the hop picking machine where the hop is separated from the bine, laterals and leaf.
Hedgerow hops are harvested mechanically using a machine developed from the British blackcurrant harvester. The hop and leaf is taken to the hop picking machine where the hop is separated from the leaf. For a video of the British Hop harvest, click here. For more photos on the Hop Harvest, click here.
Arguably the most important aspect of hop farming is the drying. Once clean of the leaf, the hops are distributed into baskets and put into the hop kiln or oast to dry. Hops contain over 80% moisture when picked and in order to make them store, this is reduced to about 10%. They are then baled into bales of 60kg in weight.
Things were done a bit differently 150 years ago. The second link in the excerpt above is to a 2013 article in the Daily Mail, which contains photos of each step of the modern harvest process. In the article, a hop farmer, Ali Capper, compares this process to the old days:
Pre-mechanisation, from the 1950s back, all hops were hand picked and that involved thousands of people. And they came on hop picking holidays from Birmingham and the Black Country factories and the factories of the East End of London.
The people in the photo are wearing a variety of different clothes, some of which seem less appropriate for fieldwork than others. A few are wearing gloves, and everyone is wearing a hat except the infant at the center. In the lower right corner, a boy is holding a small dog. It was a team effort! We can even see a few smiles.
Updated August 24, 2019.