Hazelnut Growers of Oregon (HGO), a farmer-owned cooperative of more than 180 co-op members, held a grand opening for its new 120,000-square-foot hazelnut processing facility in Donald, Ore.  When HGO merged with Wilco Farmers Cooperative in 2016, they immediately started on plans to build a new processing facility designed to meet rigorous new FSMA food safety requirements. 

Included in the new plant is the latest in nut processing technology and is the only hazelnut processing facility in the Pacific Northwest that uses steam pasteurization—considered a growing requirement by many customers, and a value to growers who deliver their crop to HGO.

Today, there are more than 800 family farms growing hazelnuts on more than 70,000 acres in the Willamette Valley. The value growers received for their hazelnuts has averaged just more than $100 million per year during the last five years. This translates into a total economic impact of more than $250 million for the state. Source: http://oregonhazelnuts.org/about/fun-facts.

“Compared to other nuts, the domestic and international market potential for hazelnuts is largely untapped,” says Wilco CEO and President Tim Ramsey. “In a few years, the Oregon hazelnut crop production is anticipated to double, which is why we built this new facility. In addition, we have expanded our leadership team with experienced industry professionals with a focus on growing the business through innovation of value-added products.  Hazelnuts are more than just a commodity and HGO is well positioned for the future.”

State-of-the-Art Processing Facility

The new processing facility will begin full production in mid-September prior to the 2018 harvest. Last year, Hazelnut Growers of Oregon processed more than 15,000 US tons and anticipates a significant increase this year. When complete, the Hazelnut Growers of Oregon Donald facility will be capable of: 

•    Receiving 160,000 pounds of hazelnuts per hour

•    Storing 320,000 pounds in the quality control silos 

•    Storing 10,800,000 pounds in the four massive storage silos (2.7MM pounds each) 

•    Steam pasteurizing more than 10,000 pounds of hazelnuts per hour

•    Slicing/dicing in excess of 5,000 pounds of hazelnuts per hour

•    Roasting more than 3,000 pounds of hazelnuts per hour

Economic Development and Job Creation 

Breaking ground in Nov. 2016, the majority of construction work was completed by local and regional companies. Hazelnut Growers of Oregon will employ approximately 55 workers in the peak season.   

New Management Team: “Cracking the Nut” on Market Growth    

•    Tim Ramsey, CEO and President joined Wilco in December 2017.  Previously Tim led Oregon Cherry Growers as President and CEO and has held senior leadership positions in the food industry for over 30 years. 

•    Randy Moore, Wilco’s Chief Financial Officer since 2008, has accepted the additional responsibility of Chief Operating Officer for HGO 

•    Patrick Gabrish, Vice President of Sales and Marketing brings 30+ years’ experience of successfully growing consumer-focused food and beverage companies.    

•    Jason Costa, Operations Manager, brings 13+ years of experience in the nut processing industry most recently with Blue Diamond Growers. 

“The market potential for hazelnuts is enormous,” notes Meredith Nagely, Manager, Hazelnut Industry Office. “With increased production we will be better positioned to supply larger users of hazelnuts.  In addition, current research supports greater interest in hazelnut consumption by consumers as a whole.”  

About Hazelnut Growers of Oregon

Founded in 1984 as a grower cooperative, Hazelnut Growers of Oregon has more than 180 growers who collectively own more than 20,000 acres of prime hazelnut orchards. Oregon has the ideal climate for growing the world’s highest quality hazelnuts. It is in this special corner of the world where temperate ocean, mountain and river climates meet with rich volcanic soils to create prime hazelnut-growing country. 

In 2016, Hazelnut Growers of Oregon merged with Wilco and built a new processing facility located in Donald, Ore. Completed in 2018, the new hazelnut facility processes both in-shell and kernels and serves foodservice supply companies, confectioners, snack food makers, and bakers around the globe. 

For more information visit www.wilco.coop/hazelnuts.