Winter in the Orchards

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Winter is a time when many of us slow down and keep cover, but hazelnut growers know all too well that there is always work to be done. The frantic pace of fall harvest has subsided and the last of the leaves have dropped, exposing bare trees for growers to gauge the health and growth of their orchards.

Grower James McDonald of Inchinnan Farm in Wilsonville, Oregon is no stranger to the wintertime work that hazelnut orchards require. “This is the time of year to prune healthy limbs in order to stimulate new growth. For a year or two, pruning will decrease our production, but after that, the trimmed limbs will produce many more nuts than if they were left alone,” he explains. “Racing against Mother Nature, there’s a small window of opportunity between December and March to get into our orchards and prune before the heavy spring rain comes and the leaves cover the canopy, making it hard to see inside.”

Inchinnan Farm was purchased by James’s grandfather and a hazelnut orchard was planted by his father in the 1970s. James is a second-generation hazelnut farmer and grows three main varieties of hazelnut trees: Barcelona, Willamette, and Jefferson. Most recently, a new hazelnut variety named McDonald was released in memory of James’s father, Peter McDonald. The McDonalds have been instrumental in the Oregon hazelnut industry, a tight-knit community of growers.

Aside from growing hazelnuts and a few other crops, James keeps a portion of his property out of production for conservation and wildlife habitat.

As growers prune and trim this winter, the trees are readied for new growth and nut production come spring. Next, we look forward the buds and blooms that warmer weather brings.