Hazelnut Grower of the Year

2019 Hazelnut Grower of the Year Tim Newkirk, left, is recognized by Oregon Hazelnut Commissioner Sean Denfeld. (Photos courtesy of Hazelnut Marketing Board)

About 800 hazelnut growers recently converged at Oregon State University in Corvallis for the 105th Annual Winter Meeting, hosted by the Nut Growers Society (NGS). NGS represents hazelnut growers from Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, and is responsible for keeping growers up to date on the latest industry news and trends.

The Winter Meeting is one of two paramount events—along with the Summer Tour—that are held annually to bring hundreds of growers together to share ideas, learn about research results and find out about the newest technologies that could benefit them in the orchard.

The 105th edition of the meeting featured a robust trade show, complete with 59 exhibitors; ranging from hazelnut processors to equipment manufacturers to financial institutions, these vendors had ample opportunity to speak one-on-one with hazelnut farmers from the Willamette Valley to British Columbia.

A hallmark of the Winter Meeting is the seminars. Each year, the Nut Growers Society Board of Directors select a group of speakers to present on topics deemed most relevant to growers. Every speaker is an expert in their field and each topic molds the hazelnut industry for the upcoming year.

The keynote speech was delivered by Allan Fulton, UC-Davis extension specialist, who addressed results from his research on agricultural water management. In addition, Nik Wiman, extension agent and orchard specialist with Oregon State University, informed growers on his findings regarding orchard pests, most notably brown marmorated stink bug. Kelly Vining, assistant professor at Oregon State University, detailed the role genomics play in the hazelnut industry.

Industry representatives updated attendees on international marketing and trade efforts, the 2019 crop price as set by the Hazelnut Growers Bargaining Association, the importance of the USDA Objective Yield Survey and legislation being discussed at the Oregon state capitol that could impact hazelnut growers. Industry representatives and growers formed a panel for a discussion on the importance of the Hazelnut Stewardship Program—a massive undertaking that is set to launch in 2020 and more clearly illustrate the stewardship practices being done by growers.

Perhaps the most illustrious moment of the Winter Meeting is the annual announcement of the Grower of the Year. This is the most prestigious honor the Nut Growers Society can bestow and is reserved for those individuals that dedicate countless hours and serve in leadership roles that strengthen the hazelnut industry. The award was first presented in 1970, and its lineage boasts many luminaries of the industry.

The 2020 recipient is Tim Newkirk. He is one of—if not the youngest—recipient in the history of the award. He has served on nearly every committee and in every leadership position possible, including principal roles with the Nut Growers Society, Oregon Hazelnut Commission and Hazelnut Marketing Board. He also manages his own orchard, helps operate a nursery business and provides planting services for fellow growers looking to expand or break into the hazelnut industry. Furthermore, he is a former CEO of Willamette Hazelnut Growers. He is a paragon of the hazelnut world and a go-to resource for the entire industry.

Attendance to the Winter Meeting is included with every Nut Growers Society annual membership; any hazelnut grower that is not currently a member can contact the Hazelnut Industry Office to sign up and learn about the additional benefits that come with membership. The office can be reached at 503-678- 6823 or juli@oregonhazelnuts.org.