Montana State University

Recent MSU grad who launched hops farm named Entrepreneur of the Year by Headwaters RC&D

December 12, 2016 -- By Anne Cantrell, MSU News Service

Jake TeSelle, a 2016 graduate from the MSU College of Engineering, has been named Entrepreneur of the Year for the counties served by Headwaters RC&D. TeSelle and his business partner, Colten Sales, are the founders of Crooked Yard Hops, a specialty operation growing hops for local microbreweries. MSU photo by Adrian Sanchez-Gonzalez.

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BOZEMAN —  A recent Montana State University graduate has been named Entrepreneur of the Year for the counties served by Headwaters RC&D.

Jake TeSelle, who earned a degree in mechanical engineering in 2016 from the MSU College of Engineering, received the award in November at Headwaters RC&D’s annual awards event in Butte.

TeSelle and his business partner, Colten Sales, are the founders of Crooked Yard Hops, a specialty operation growing hops for local microbreweries.

Crooked Yard began as a one-acre test plot in a back corner of TeSelle’s family’s farm near Bozeman in spring 2015. That fall, TeSelle and Sales harvested 20 pounds of hops and got a positive response on the samples they gave to local breweries, TeSelle said.

TeSelle and Sales worked with MSU’s Blackstone LaunchPad to develop a business plan, create a structure for the business and successfully apply for a grant worth more than $38,000 through the Montana Department of Agriculture’s Growth Through Agriculture program, according to Les Craig, director of the Blackstone LaunchPad at MSU.

Receiving the grant allowed TeSelle and Sales to launch Crooked Yard Hops and purchase a mobile harvester, TeSelle said. He added that he has used his engineering degree to design a hops trellis system that is less top-heavy than more traditional systems and which reduces the risk of being blown over by wind.

Crooked Yard Hops is currently engaged in several major projects, TeSelle said, the largest of which is finalizing its production facilities. In addition, Crooked Yard has been developing further drying methods for hop cones for use by other small-scale hop yards and has been planning for next season – a year where TeSelle said production is expected to be at a fully commercial scale.

TeSelle noted that the Headwaters RC&D award means a great deal.

“It's very encouraging to know that my dream is succeeding and that I am surrounded by so many fantastic mentors, friends and family who keep me moving onward and upward,” he said. “This is just the beginning for Crooked Yard and we have a long way to go, but I am confident that if we just keep at it, we will succeed.

“I would like to thank my business partner, Colt, Blackstone, Headwaters, Bridger Brewing and my entire family for their past and continued support of living the dream,” TeSelle added.

Craig said TeSelle’s recognition from Headwaters RC&D is well-deserved.

“Jake is one of the hardest working and most accomplished of all the entrepreneurs I have worked with in the LaunchPad; he's also one of the most conscientious and humble,” Craig said. “I cannot think of anyone more deserving of this award.”

Headwaters RC&D aims to improve the economic and social well-being of southwest Montana by providing sustainable economic development and conservation services to residents and its stakeholders, according to its website. To achieve this mission, Headwaters RC&D offers its clients a number of resources, including grants administration, organization development, consensus building, small business technical assistance, finance programs, training for entrepreneurs, and other information and education. More information is available at http://www.headwatersrcd.org/.

Contact: Jake TeSelle, (406) 209-0334 or crookedyardhops@hotmail.com

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