Hazelnut Management Considerations

A hazelnut orchard must be operated as business with good crop and financial management coupled with accurate record keeping.  A strong focus on quality assurance through the entire production and processing phases is required if you wish to maximize returns on your investment.

There are many points to consider when looking at starting a hazelnut orchard, such as:

  • Personal aptitude
  • Marketing
  • Site selection
  • Site design and layout
  • Developing a business plan
  • Variety selection

In addition, there are regional considerations when producing hazelnuts in B.C.:

  • Market development opportunities are needed.
  • High cost of land in relation to value of the crop.
  • B.C. has mainly part-time hazelnut farmers on smaller farms.
  • Need higher-yielding varieties that have resistance to EFB.
  • Restrictions by CFIA on the import of cuttings of EFB resistant hazelnut varieties to B.C.
  • Limited supply of resistant varieties within BC: 1-2-year lead time required.
  • Wet weather during harvest.

To be successful, a grower must possess a high level of commitment and have a broad range of skills.  In order to reduce expenses, it is beneficial for the orchardist to be able to perform all, or most, of the work required in the day-to-day operation of the business.  The skills required to operate a hazelnut orchard include:

  • Technical trade skills, such as plumbing, electrical, carpentry, welding, and mechanics;
  • Knowledge in hazelnut production, including plant growth and development, soils, plant nutrition, and pest management;
  • Business skills, such as record keeping, inventory control, business and personnel management, marketing, and accounting; and
  • The ability to cope with adversity is invaluable, since adversity is inevitable. Adversity will arise in the form of weather or pest-related crop problems, equipment breakdowns, staff problems, and poor sales and cash flow.

The more of these skills a grower has, the better their chance of success. However, do not be discouraged if you do not possess all the skills listed, since they can be learned from courses offered by local educational institutions.  There are seminars offered during the year that may be of interest to new growers.  Information on these events is available through the B.C. Hazelnut Growers Association (BCHGA).

As your orchard grows in size, there will be the opportunity to hire staff with specialized skills.  Until that day, the orchardist will truly need to be a “jack-of-all-trades.”

There are many factors to consider when it comes to marketing.  What marketing channels will work best for your situation, and what type of marketing and promotional tools will you use?  What will be your market area?  Will it include local, domestic or export markets?  Shipping product outside your local community increases market size, but it also brings with it the need to know and adhere to regulations designed to prevent the movement of quarantine pests.

Wholesale versus retail: There are markets for hazelnuts crops, including commercial wholesalers and processors, farm markets, niche market processors, other growers, brokers, and homeowners.

Brokering is a small but useful market channel for new growers that have a limited product line, insufficient market contacts, and/or poor marketing skills.  Brokers or wholesalers enter into agreements with growers to market and sell their product for an agreed upon price.

Direct selling of product to the consumer or niche processors is attractive because it maximizes price.  However, the costs associated with selling the nuts are higher.  

Websites can bring the world marketplace to the door of even the smallest business at a reasonable cost.  You may register a web domain by conducting an Internet search for web domain registration companies. Professional website design consultants will create a site that effectively showcases your products. If you have Internet sales outside of Canada, there are costs to meet export requirements.

It is important to investigate these issues before starting a business with a marketing program.

It is important at the planning stage to rank management objectives according to your land-use priorities (low, medium, high). Remember that these objectives are a starting point, and you can (and probably will) modify them later. So if possible, numerically rank the top five objectives for your hazelnut orchard.

Hazelnut Orchard Management Objectives
Objectives Low Priority Medium Priority High Priority Top 5 Priorities
  • A new source of income from unproductive land
  • Reduce costs of current farm operation
  • Develop new source of long-term income (i.e., hazelnuts)
  • Increase short-term income while awaiting long-term income
  • Reduce land taxes
  • Increase intercropping or other production opportunities
  • Undertake environmental improvements.
  • Production or management considerations: hazel nut biology, site and infrastructure requirements.
       

The expanding market for B.C. hazelnuts provides a career opportunity in farming. Advances in breeding improved and disease resistant varieties and production technology have opened new possibilities, allowing for efficient use of smaller lots, increased crop production and better pest management options.

Yet with all business endeavors, potential hazelnut producers must have the right skills and knowledge to accomplish a wide range of activities from hands-on work in the field, to repairing equipment, solving problems, financial planning and management while analyzing the sector’s production, market and sales data.

If you are interested in exploring the idea of starting a hazelnut farm, there are many questions to answer, such as:

  • How will I gain the right knowledge?
  • Where will I find affordable farm land?
  • How will I finance my new farm start-up?

There are numerous websites and institutions that offer a multitude of resources from production information to financial and business management. The B.C. Hazelnut Grower’s Association  offers a range of farm business tools, information and production guides and workbooks that will help to assess a potential producer’s skills and interests, and ask the right questions to develop a business plan.

In addition, there are several programs and services available to assist new farmers in starting or improving their business venture, including advisory services, workshops, seminars, crop insurance and analytical tools.

Hazelnuts begin bearing at three to five years of age, although full production generally starts some five to seven years later. In general, mature trees can produce 8 to 10 kg of nuts annually.

For general financial information and helpful provincial farm business programs, the B.C. Hazelnut Grower’s Association can provide new growers with useful examples and initiatives to support a new enterprise.