Hazelnut harvest is finally here! For us, it’s the most wonderful time of the year–the time when countless hours of hard work and sacrifice finally pay off. After visiting a handful of growers and hearing their stories, we thought harvest could be summarized in four simple points:
1. 2020 is a record year
2020 is already primed to be a record year, with a projected yield of 65,000-71,000 tons; that would shatter the existing record of just over 50,000 tons! The entire Oregon hazelnut landscape is changing, and 2020 marks the first foray into a new era. Millions of trees planted in the 2010s are now reaching full maturity and adding thousands of pounds of nuts. This is incredibly exciting news for the entire Oregon hazelnut community and a glimpse into the future!
2. Machinery breakdowns are inevitable
Anybody who has worked in agriculture knows that equipment is guaranteed to breakdown, no matter how much preventive maintenance is done. Often, these breakdowns will happen at the most inopportune times. Hazelnut farming is no different, and farmers frequently need to become impromptu mechanics. Whether it is the tractor, sweeper or the harvester–the trifecta of harvest implements–breakdowns will happen. However, it is overcoming these obstacles that makes the completion of the job even more fulfilling.
3. A quick harvest is a happy harvest
Hazelnut harvest occurs is a precious tight window of time. Growers have just a few days to harvest thousands of pounds of hazelnuts–approximately 2,000 pounds per acre. This means all variables need to be working in tandem–the farmers, weather, equipment and trees. When everything lines up, harvest goes efficiently. Efficiency is critical, as hazelnuts left on the orchard floor for too long can begin losing quality or become an easy snack for wildlife.
4. Weather is both friend and foe
Perhaps the biggest reason hazelnuts thrive in Oregon is the combination of favorable soils and climate. Oregon’s temperate conditions and ample rainfall are exactly what hazelnuts crave. However, this doesn’t mean the weather always behaves the way growers would like. Once hazelnuts begin falling en masse, they prefer dry conditions in the orchard; too much rain can create muddy orchards or even wash away nuts. A moderate late summer and early fall with just a few sprinkles is ideal.