Close to 600 growers, exhibitors and industry leaders gathered to discuss the 2022 harvest and learn what lies ahead in 2023 at the 108th Nut Growers Society of Oregon, Washington and British Columbia Winter Meeting.
One of the primary goals of the Winter Meeting is grower education, helping farmers discover new production methods or the latest news on all aspects of the hazelnut industry. To this end, the 2023 informational seminars addressed several key issues applicable to the modern hazelnut farm.
After the annual business meeting and opening ceremonies, Nik Wiman with Oregon State University Extension delivered his presentation on the pros and cons of irrigation vs dryland farming in hazelnuts.
Colleen Nihen, executive director of the Oregon Hazelnut Industry Office, provided some insight into the ongoing hazelnut marketing efforts being led by the Hazelnut Marketing Board. This included how current promotional efforts are laying the groundwork for future initiatives. Among the biggest “wins” for 2022 was the inaugural Oregon Hazelnut Tour, which brought 25 buyers from across the U.S. to learn about hazelnuts. The ongoing MAP, ATP and TASC grant programs were also highlighted.
Blinn Carstensen from Ag West Farm Credit and Jeff Reimer from the Oregon State University Applied Economics department presented on the current global economic climate and inflation, and how these factors will impact hazelnut farmers in 2023 and beyond. Carstensen and Reimer also offered tips on how farmers can best prepare themselves for tough financial times and implement long-term strategies.
Terry Ross with the Hazelnut Growers Bargaining Association (HGBA) expounded on the factors impacting current hazelnut prices. Jenny Dresler from the Public Affairs Counsel, the lobbying group who works on behalf of the Associated Oregon Hazelnut Industries (AOHI), apprised the audience on the upcoming legislative session in Salem. Several key bills that are relevant to hazelnut farming will be up for debate, and Public Affairs Counsel will keep growers updated through AOHI.
To close the day, the NGS board of trustees shared some of the lessons they learned in 2022 on the Best Practices Panel. Each board member is an active hazelnut farmer, representing a diverse swath of locations, orchard ages, and growing practices.
All seminars were recorded and are available to 2023 NGS members on the Growers’ Corner website, members.oregonhazelnuts.org.
A favorite Winter Meeting tradition is the award ceremony. Each year, one grower is recognized for their hard work, dedication and willingness to share their knowledge with fellow hazelnut growers. The Grower of the Year award was presented to Ron Wetzel of Carlton, Ore. A hazelnut farmer for more than 65 years, Wetzel has seen and done it all in the industry, and he has become a sage advisor to many of his neighbors and peers.
The Oregon Hazelnut Commission (OHC) Service Award is presented to retiring members of the Commission as a token of gratitude for lending their time and talents to the organization. Matt Schuster was honored this year, after serving on the OHC from 2019-22.
A special surprise honorarium was announced. Shawn Mehlenbacher, David Smith and Becky McCluskey were each recognized for their decades of work leading the Oregon Hazelnut Breeding Program at Oregon State University. All three will be retiring from full-time employment within the year. The U.S. hazelnut industry would not be where it is today without new and emerging varieties that are the backbone of a thriving industry.
Mehlenbacher, Smith and McCluskey were each presented with a custom plaque made from 80-year-old Barcelona hazelnut wood as a “thank you” from the hazelnut industry.
In addition to the educational sessions, growers enjoyed the annual tradeshow, complete with more than 60 exhibitors. From pruning equipment to sweepers to financial resources, these vendors and sponsors showcased anything a hazelnut farmer could need.
New in 2023 was the Recipe Swap. During the lunch hour, several dozen attendees gathered to discuss their favorite hazelnut recipes and share ideas for new cookies, cakes and casseroles, all starring hazelnuts. Anybody who participated in the Swap was also welcomed to enter a drawing for a goodie basket, highlighted by a private wine tasting at Willamette Valley Vineyards.
Throughout the day, guests could visit with the Oregon State University hazelnut research team in the Research Rooms. Researchers including Shawn Mehlebacher, David Smith, Nik Wiman, Danielle Lightle, Robert McGorrin, Marcelo Moretti, Jay Pschiedt, Betsey Miller and Vaughn Walton were on-hand to discuss their ongoing OHC-funded research projects; these topics range from sucker control to new variety development to pest management.
The Nut Growers Society of Oregon, Washington and British Columbia is the premier fraternal organization for the U.S. and Canadian hazelnut farmers. NGS members have access to signature events like the Winter Meeting, Summer Tour and Catkins and Coffee as well as the NGS website and quarterly newsletter. All hazelnut growers are encouraged to join, and more information can be found at