Drive almost anywhere in the Willamette Valley and you’ll pass hazelnut orchards.
Laser-perfect rows fill the Mid-Valley landscape, more plentiful than wine grapes, berries or hop bines.
If hazelnut orchards already seem to be everywhere, get used to it.
Some 70,000 acres of Willamette Valley farmland are planted in hazelnuts trees and farmers are expected to plant 8,000 more acres each year.The 2018 harvest yielded about 47,000 tons, but by 2025, the yield is expected to be 90,000 tons annually.
For comparison, Oregon’s wine grape industry covered about 34,000 acres and harvested 91,000 tons of wine grapes in 2017.
The major factor fueling expansion is that, through crop breeding, Oregon State University has developed hazelnut varieties resistant to Eastern Filbert Blight, the scourge responsible for crippling older orchards.
Since resistant cultivars made their debuts in the late ’90s and early 2000s, hazelnuts have become a favorite among Oregon growers. The crop is both high-value and low-maintenance. The trees have modest water needs and an ability to self-pollinate without bees or other insects.
But as hazelnuts have come to represent a bigger piece of Oregon’s agricultural economy, there remains one place residents don’t see many hazelnuts: the grocery store.
Want to get to know (and love) hazelnuts as much as we do?
Naomi Inman, Director of Public Relations and Communications at Northwest Hazelnut Company, enjoys her nutty job managing all hazelnut-related news and information. From health aspects to sustainability to product innovation and international trade, she can help direct your questions and inquiries. Naomi has a master’s degree in Journalism and Public Policy that informs her work, spreading the word about the unrivaled flavor of hazelnuts.