Late summer is always a very exciting time of the year but his year is a little different than other years. The early spring combined with this year’s unusually warm dry summer is causing the earliest drop of hazelnuts I can remember. In anticipation of the early harvest, we started several weeks ago cleaning and leveling the orchard floor to make the ground ready before the earliest nuts started to fall. Today the preparation of the orchard floor is done, the nuts are falling onto the ground, empty tote boxes are being hauled to the orchards, and the sweepers and pickers are being checked again to make sure they are “Fire Engine Ready” for another harvest to begin. We expect to have enough nuts on the ground to justify starting harvest very shortly after Labor Day. As a comparison we often start picking around September 20th.
Harvesting is done mechanically with several pieces of machinery working in close coordination. A specialized machine sweeps the nuts and leaves into rows while the picker sweeps up the row of nuts and leaves, separates the nuts from the leaves and puts the nuts into totes. A tractor with forks on it is used to bring empty totes to the picker and haul the full totes to the loading area where the full totes are loaded onto trucks to be hauled to the nut cleaner. At the nut cleaner the nuts are washed and then dried. There never seems to be a shortage of jobs during harvest. This harvest my granddaughter will be helping weigh trucks so we will have three generations of Chapin’s working together. That realization makes me feel old.
I have at times been asked what my favorite part of harvest is. Without a question of a doubt the most enjoyable moment is when we have all of the harvest equipment started, seeing the family work together as a team, and watching that first tote fill up with hazelnuts. I feel there is something almost magical about that moment each year. After that – harvest is on!
– Bruce Chapin