The Willamette Valley grows a lot of the state's hazelnut crop

In Oregon, hazelnuts are more than just a tree fruit. They are one of the state’s most abiding agricultural crops, and they remain an unwavering symbol of what Oregon is all about.

While representing just five percent of the world’s crop, Oregon hazelnuts have become a global benchmark for in-shell excellence because of their wonderful taste.

Oregon hazelnuts are unique and well recognized for their large size and distinctive flavor. Oregon produces 99 percent of the hazelnuts grown in the United States, and it is famous among schoolchildren, especially, for being the state’s official nut, made so in 1989.

The Beaver State is home to between 800 and 1,000 hazelnut farmers and is widely recognized for its national contribution. While Turkey and Italy are the world’s largest producers of hazelnuts, the nut is often used in baking and desserts and so Oregon’s crop is much heralded and awaited. Combined with chocolate cocoa, hazelnut spreads such as Nutella are noted for being delicious as well as being rich in protein and monounsaturated fats.

Hazelnuts are also known by the name ‘filberts.’ Filbert is the correct name for both the tree and the nut and is French in origin. French settlers, according to the Oregon Hazelnuts website, are thought to have introduced the nut to the state. Hazelnut is the name introduced by the English, and in 1981, the Oregon Filbert Commission decided to conform to the English standard and started emphasizing hazelnuts instead.

Hazelnuts are a strong commodity in the state of Oregon. The total value growers received for their nut crop in recent years has averaged nearly $70 million. Trees in the orchards can produce the fruit nut for more than 60 years, some in the valley are more than 100 years old.

Oregon hazelnuts, harvested in late September and early October, are used by many local companies in their products including Burgerville, Salt & Straw, and Bob’s Red Mill.

In Oregon, specifically in the Willamette Valley, farmers grow several different kinds of hazelnuts because of the region’s moderate climate. The temperate weather in the Pacific Northwest allows European variants to flourish and grow.

Most hazelnuts grown in Oregon come specifically from the Willamette Valley, where a majority of the growers live as well as work. One of the valley’s more well-known hazelnut companies is Willamette Hazelnut, Inc. The corporation has been working in the industry for the past 40 years, which has helped establish it as one of the most reputable sources for all things hazelnut.

The company started in 1976 when three growers, John Newell, Dick Birkemeier and Ben Mitchell Jr., decided to leave a Dundee co-op and form their own processing facility. Their goal was to set the pace for the emerging hazelnut industry, and improve returns for hazelnut growers, which is what they did.

Since its humble beginnings, Willamette Hazelnut, Inc. has grown to supply the world's largest and most respected customers. The company is widely recognized as a leader in quality and service, both to grower suppliers and customers alike.

Two of the most important organizations within the Oregon Hazelnut industry include the Hazelnut Marketing Board, established in 1949 by growers and handlers of hazelnuts, and the Oregon Hazelnut Commission, formed in 1951 by Oregon Revised Statutes following recognition by the Oregon Legislature.

The Hazelnut Marketing Board is vital for the Oregon hazelnut industry as it has several responsibilities including setting quality standards for the industry, compiling and maintaining statistics for the industry, and allowing handlers to implement value control.

The production of the nation’s hazelnuts in Oregon, more specifically the Willamette Valley, is more important than what a first glance might offer. The state carries its hazelnut responsibility with pride and continues to do so every day moving forward.

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