The first reeve of the District of Kent was a hops man.
A. St. George Hamersley had established one of the first hopyards in Agassiz back in 1892, a farm located on the west side of Cameron Road between Hunt Road and the Fraser River. By the 1930s, Hamersley’s hopyard and indeed the entire industry in Agassiz had grown to be one of the top hop-producing regions in the province: with 300 acres of hops fields in production at its height.
In the early days, these mobile workers were largely from Indigenous communities. People from Lytton, Lillooet, Powell River and even Seattle would come to Agassiz in August to work in the hops fields. Although some would live in small shacks or cabins that were built on the hopyards themselves, others would camp in tents. All would gather in the evenings and on Sunday for vast, inter-tribal competitions.
According to UFV researcher Keith Carlson, these competitions were similar in some ways to the Seabird Island Festival that takes place today: with different nations competing in sports like soccer and baseball, but also hybrid Indigenous sports like dry-canoe races (where contestants would race with heavy logs under their arms) and Coast Salish wrestling.
By the Great Depression, local European workers also joined the hop picking teams, earning around $2.50 for a 10-hour day. Chinese residents also worked in Agassiz’s hop fields, many walking from Agassiz’s Chinatown on east Pioneer Avenue to the hopyards.
In 1935, however, Agassiz’s hop industry began to decline.
By 1952, all of Agassiz’s hopyards were sold.
Today, hopyards are starting a small resurgence in the Fraser Valley. A Chilliwack farm has developed the first Canadian-designed and -patented hops plant, called Sasquatch, and the Fraser Valley Hop Farms set up its production at Seabird Island, where it celebrated its first harvest in the fall of 2018.