University City

Hops 4 Hope’s farm raises beer ingredient to help special-needs orphans

The Charlotte business Hops 4 Hope operates according to the motto “Locally grown, globally sown.”

By growing and educating the community about hops on the company’s W.T. Harris Boulevard farm, the business is able to help orphans in China who have serious medical needs that make it more difficult for them to be adopted.

Giving is built into Hops 4 Hope’s business plan: 25percent of the organization’s profits and 100percent of merchandise proceeds are donated to four nonprofit organizations that help such orphans.

The organizations are Love Without Boundaries, Shepherd’s Field Children’s Village, Hope Station China and the local The HEARTest Yard.

Hops 4 Hope is on the cutting edge of the trend toward socially-conscious business plans. Founder Shawn McMillan, an attorney who has practiced business law for 12 years, said, “I am personally a huge fan of this business model in general. I believe that it’s our social responsibility to help and, beyond that, I think that enterprise and charity are inherently linked.… I sincerely hope that more businesses make giving a priority, but I think that shift will occur naturally.

“The world is changing rapidly and more and more people are investing in the world around them.”

McMillan was heavily invested in the causes Hops 4 Hope supports before starting the company.

The McMillans adopted their first daughter from China. She required heart surgery. Thanks to the organizations Hops 4 Hope now works to support, she received some of the care she needed in China before joining her new family in the U.S.

“I had the idea because my wife and I already give to these charities, along with others,” McMillan said. “We enjoy giving, and we want to help orphans in need of necessary medical treatments, so it only made sense to me.

“My wife and I want to help others like us become parents to children who are not only orphaned, but who are in desperate need of medical care, so that they may all have a chance at a better life.”

McMillan has owned the farm for a couple of years. His family has a multigenerational history of horticulturists.

McMillan began farming hops out of an interest in the plant and home brewing. He decided to turn the farm into an enterprise and started Hops 4 Hope in June.

“Hops are a fascinating plant and I wanted to grow something that is challenging. North Carolina is not generally known for growing hops, but the hops plant can actually flourish here, so it makes it fun for me,” said McMillan. “We definitely support agriculture and believe that it’s integral to North Carolina’s identity, history and future.”

Hops 4 Hope has received support from Charlotte’s brewing community.

Triple C Brewing brewed one of its popular beers, Golden Boy, with H4H hops and tapped the brew at a special event Nov. 27.

Hops 4 Hope also hosted a home-brewing education event at NoDa Brewing Co. with help from House of Brews.

One way for the public to be involved is through Hops 4 Hope’s Grow Together Program. The program allows people to purchase hops plants on the H4H farm and receive the education needed to successfully grow them.

The public has until Feb. 1 to buy plots of land on the farm. The hops will be planted in March and be ready to harvest between July and September, depending on the type. Growers can use their hops to home-brew, or can even pay Hops 4 Hope to brew the hops into beer for them.

“People are very excited about the Grow Together Program. It offers a unique opportunity for people to have something exciting to do and grow,” said McMillan. “Hops are often too large and cumbersome to grow at home, and it’s educational for children, great for families and couples and just a generally great opportunity to learn about growing hops, giving back, and, of course, making beer.”

Being a charitable business adds extra value for customers. The satisfaction of knowing they have helped orphans while pursuing their hobby makes the experience even more positive.

“The money we make sustains our giving; it’s that simple,” said McMillan.