The commercial hazelnut industry has flourished in the Willamette Valley for more than 100 years. About 1,000 Oregon farm families grow hazelnuts on more than 80,000 acres. Many of the farm families are third- and fourth-generation orchardists, working the same orchards as their pioneering predecessors. They are passionate about protecting the productivity of the land and trees for generations to come.
The industry is currently in an expansion mode with more acres being planted each year. Growers are finding hazelnut production to be an excellent use of land in the Willamette Valley.
Quality distinguishes the Oregon-grown hazelnut from imports. Achieving and maintaining the highest level of quality is the overarching – and uniting – principal of the industry. Our growers’ success can be measured by the demand for Oregon hazelnuts across the globe today.
The Hazelnut Tree
The hazelnut tree is amazing. While other plants are “sleeping” during the winter months, the hazelnut is busy pollinating. Wind and rain spreads the pollen to tiny red flowers. Then, the trees take a short break before spring growth begins. In late spring, the nuts begin to form. By mid summer, clusters of green nuts can be seen throughout the orchards.
In late summer, the green nuts turn to the “hazel” color they are known for. In early fall, they separate from the husks and fall to the orchard floor. Growers sweep the nuts into rows and pick them up with a harvester. As they are harvested, the nuts move through a series of air legs to sort out lighter debris. The nuts are quickly shipped to one of many wash and dry operations found throughout the valley. The Pacific Northwest is one of the few places in the world where the nuts are dried very quickly, while many other growing regions depend on the sun. This efficient and consistent drying process helps ensure the wonderful quality of Oregon hazelnuts. Once cleaned, dried and sorted by size, hazelnuts are either sold in the shell or further processed into kernels and other forms.