When William and Phyllis Morris purchased their first hazelnut orchard in 2004, it was a bit of a leap of faith, but one for which they were ideally suited. The orchard was 28 years old but had been abandoned and was in desperate need of a makeover. Both come from mutli-generation farm families, and had previously raised sheep, cattle and hay.
In 2000, with the help of some friends who were already growing hazelnuts, the Morris’s began exploring the industry. When they purchased their orchard in 2004 they had to completely transform the acreage; the 52 acres of trees needed extensive pruning, they added a well and electricity and implemented erosion control measures. They amended the soil and removed noxious weeds and garbage. As with all projects on their farm, the Morris’s did the work side-by-side.
With input from fellow growers, Wilbur Ellis company reps, Oregon State University and the Farm Extension Agency, the Morris’s continually modified how they managed the trees based on soil and leaf testing and new technology. As new varieties became available they began interplanting Yamhill, Dorris and McDonald trees. This method has allowed them to have a constantly producing orchard while slowly removing older, EFB-susceptible trees with EFB-resistant varieties.
Continuing to improve the land and maintaining a sustainable orchard has been paramount for the Morris’s. The orchard has become home to birds, bats, bee, snakes and beneficial insects that balance the biodiversity. To accomplish this, the Morris’s put up bat and bee boxes and bird houses; they also added beetle berms and ladybug logs. They continually work with an agronomist, talk with fellow growers and listen to researchers to make sure their practices are up to date and embrace the most progressive environmentally friendly approach.