The Ins and Outs of Hazelnut Production
Before I was born, my parents could see Mt. Hood from the back porch of their home. And then a change happened on the farm: the filberts my grandfather planted in the winter of 1978/79 reached their full height.
Filberts have continued to be a crop that Brentano Farms plants and harvests each year.
When Googling Hazelnuts, as the consumer has known them by since 1981, Oregon is the only listed grower on the initial search result page.
Oregon is incredibly proud of it’s agriculture. Our state boasts co-ops for the commodities we produce- one being the Hazelnuts Growers of Oregon which was founded around 1984. Our family has been members since founding.
The first variety that my grandfather planted on our farm was Barcelona. Since then, we have added Casina, Jeffferson, and McDonald/Webster.
We also custom harvest for other neighbors, which entails varieties like Yamhill, Ennis, Lewis and Doris.
We do that for five to eight years with each planting before we get a profitable crop. Over the last handful of years, we’ve planted a companion crop between rows in order to still gain income off that acreage.
The companion crop that we plant is typically clover or rye grass. My cousins or I, or whoever working that summer, will run a combine up and down the rows to harvest the seed. It might possibly be the one job on the farm that induces the most anxiety for me because really, can you imagine driving a giant machine through rows of baby trees?
The filberts naturally fall to the ground, and then are swept into windrows so a harvester can come through, sort debris out and hopefully end with the target goal of having a clean nut product in the tank.
We then haul the crop to a receiving station with a washer/dryer. The filberts are held until shipped out to the buyer.
In the last two years, our farm has introduced drip irrigation into our orchards. Before that, we ran lateral sprinkler lines- irrigation pipe- through the rows that had to be moved by hand. The drip irrigation is a massive efficiency addition for us and a lot of the neighboring farms who are also adding it into their orchards.
The orchard behind my parent’s house is the one thing that separates us from the main part of the farm. As kids, my sisters and I would ride four wheelers through the cow pastures to get out into the filberts and drive over to our grandparent’s house, or to meet our cousins in the middle at the bridge to fish for tadpoles. As I got older, it became one of the places I’d go for clarity and quiet. I would set a blanket beneath a tree, pack snacks and read a book. Now, if you see me in the orchard, it is most likely because I’m out running.
My grandfather was known for many incredible things, but one of my favorites is that he would carry filberts around and crack them with his bare hands or on his steering wheel.