Hazelnuts have proven to be a very lucrative crop. So why is it that the USA only produces approximately 5% of the world’s hazelnuts? Furthermore, why is it that a staggering 99% of the nation’s hazelnuts are produced in Oregon, or more specifically the Willamette Valley of Oregon?
Simply, the Willamette Valley of Oregon has the perfect climate and can take advantage of its rich volcanic soils to grow some of the most high-quality hazelnuts produced anywhere in the world, making it a smarter investment than raising livestock like goats, chicken, or deer.
So lucrative are hazelnuts that per acre they can generate 8-10x the income of other crops such as corn. It typically takes six years before trees are able to produce a significant amount of nuts. Once they do and assuming 2000 – 3000 pounds of nuts sold at a wholesale price of $2.50 – $3.50 per pound, a farmer can expect at least $5,000 per acre.
Oregonians are certainly onto a good thing and have been for a while. Given the perfect climate and soil conditions, it doesn’t look like this is going to stop anytime soon.
While hazelnut trees can be grown in a bush, in the USA they are grown as a single-trunk tree. In bush form, you can expect growth of 8 – 12ft tall, and the main advantage is easy hand-picking of the nuts and simple maintenance. If growing as a tree you can expect it to reach 14-16 ft tall, almost as wide with the main advantage of greater yields.
Besides just how lucrative growing hazelnuts is, a couple of other advantages is how well they can produce, and for a very long time too – beyond 80 years in fact. Farmers also don’t have to wait long to see their trees bear nuts, taking 4 years and heavy yields taking just a couple of years longer.
While hazelnuts are hugely popular and are mostly sold to snack manufacturers – think of the delicious tasting Nutella and Ferrero Rocher – they have other uses. Their high protein and oil contents make them suited for animal feed, biofuel, cooking oils, and lotions.
Due to their versatility, this has made hazelnut farming one to watch in the future, especially as farmers look to reduce their reliance on other crops such as corn and soybeans.