A Mighty Passion

Beer and horticulture blend well in burgeoning hops industry

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hopsWhen Eric Sannerud's great-grandpa bought the family farm in the 1930s, it was producing grains and milk. Now, under Sannerud's direction, it's one of a handful of farms in Minnesota producing a main ingredient of beer—hops.

Eric SannerudSannerud, '13 B.S., and two friends blended their passions for beer and horticulture to found Mighty Axe Hops while they were still at the University of Minnesota. As a student in the College of Continuing Education's Inter-College Program, Sannerud designed his own degree, combining sustainability studies, business, and social justice.

Mighty Axe Hops is now in its third growing season at the Ham Lake farm. It sells its hops to local craft breweries such as Fulton Beer, Fair State Brewing Cooperative, and Day Block Brewing.

"For me, it's not just about growing hops and drinking beer," Sannerud says. "It's about finding the right crop for the family farm so that we can keep it around."

"Debt reduces opportunity after you graduate," Sannerud says. "If you have to pay back your loans immediately after graduating, you are less able to pursue things like Mighty Axe."Sannerud says that without help from scholarships, like the Alumni Scholarship for Student Leaders that he received, recent graduates wouldn't be able to launch entrepreneurial ventures like Mighty Axe.

–Annie Montemayor
Reprinted from the University of Minnesota Foundation's Legacy magazine.