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Ag News | Coastal Community

Oregon Hazelnuts Go Global

October 27, 2017

Everyone knows that apples are big business in Washington state. Nearly 60% of the apples grown in the U.S. originate from 168,500 acres of well-cared-for Washington land. Slightly less well known is that 99% of America’s hazelnuts are grown in Oregon. It’s a big business that has grown a lot in recent years.

Hazelnuts are Good for You

According to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), Hazelnuts are a great source of protein, dietary fiber, vitamins B, E, and K, thiamin, phosphorus, manganese, calcium, zinc, potassium, and magnesium. But, quite often those nuts are used to create things that are not quite as good for you, like chocolate truffles, tortes, and cakes.

Hazelnuts are also the prime ingredient in Nutella, which is one of the world’s favorite spreads. It’s so popular that a jar of that delicious substance is sold every 2.5 seconds somewhere in the world.

Chances are you have Nutella in your cupboard right now. But the hazelnuts used to fill that jar didn’t come from Oregon. They were likely grown in Turkey, which produces 63% of the world’s hazelnuts. Oregon is in the top five but only accounts for 4% of worldwide production. Other producers include Italy, Georgia (the country), and Azerbaijan (which is just east of Georgia the country).

Meet an Oregon Hazelnut Farmer

Barney Kropf is an assistant farm manager who works on his family’s farm in Harrisburg, Oregon. They grow hazelnuts. Quite a lot of them.

“The soil and weather are kinda perfect for Hazelnuts,” said Kropf about Oregon’s industry. “To grow hazelnuts the soil needs to be good and the weather cannot be too hot or cold. It’s also beneficial to be on the 45th parallel.”

In the Willamette Valley, just as in Turkey and other growing regions, the trees grow quickly. New starts can produce nuts in as little as four years, with full production in a decade. Those nuts can bring in a healthy profit.

According to the Register Guard, the starting minimum price for this fall will be 96.5 cents a pound. That’s down from $1.18 a pound last year, but it’s enough of a return that farmers all over the region are moving quickly to plant their own trees.

“Hazelnut trees don’t ever sleep,” explained Kropf. “That’s another of their benefits for farmers. They’re always doing something. Other trees go dormant in the winter, but hazelnuts start pollinating in January with nuts growing all summer and harvest in the fall.”

Harvesting in a Nutshell

Hazelnuts are harvested mid-autumn. That’s when the trees drop their nuts and leaves. While some growers will start harvesting early in the fall, most wait for the leaves to fall too.

Once all the nuts are on the ground, a sweeper is used to move the nuts into rows. A harvester then lifts and separates the nuts from the debris, such as leaves and twigs. Finally, a nut cart holds the nuts in large boxes for transportation. On the Kropf family farm, boxes are four feet wide, tall, and deep.

“We put 20 of our boxes on a truck and haul them up to our washer,” he explained. “The wash line basically takes out any remaining sticks, rocks, or leaves. We then dry them. Once most of the moisture is out of the nuts, they’re stable and ready to ship.”

The family washes and dries hazelnuts for producers and farmers all over Oregon. As Barney Kropf talks about those growers, it’s easy to tell that he enjoys every minute of his job and cannot imagine doing anything else.

Coastal Carries it All

Whether you harvest hazelnuts, grow alfalfa, or simply enjoy life in the Northwest, you’ll find everything you need, including workwear, footwear, stoves, hunting and fishing gear, and clothing for every occasion. Stop by your nearby Coastal Farm & Ranch today.