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More Hazelnut Trees in the Ground

28 Nov

If you live in Oregon you have been seeing a major change in the landscape of the fields throughout the I-5 corridor.  Thousand and thousands of little hazelnut trees have been planted the past 10 or so years.  And here at Kirsch Family Farms, the landscape is also changing.

This is a photo of our first planting of Jefferson trees in 2010.

We have older hazelnut orchards of Barcelonas, planted in 1990.  We also have some newer varieties, mainly Jeffersons.  And this year we put in a third variety called Wepsters.  The reasons for our plantings and even the delay in plantings until more recent years has a lot to do with disease management and pressure, and a lot of great work done by Oregon State University to help us with those issues.  But it also has to do with timing of harvest, early or late fall can mean the difference between a dusty (preferred) harvest and a muddy mess of harvest.  And also how much land we want to take out of production for a number of years, to then leave in a permanent or basically permanent cropping system.

What you are seeing here are the newly planted trees.  Too small to really see the tree itself.  It is surrounded by a protective tube to keep it safe from the sun, and has a bamboo post next to it to give it more strength.

This year we planted the Wepsters right behind our house on a small field that was soon to be, I guess you could say “tree locked.”  Meaning with all the orchards being planted around it, there wasn’t going to be much room for getting larger equipment needed for grass seed or grain production.  Case in point, our combine header was rubbing tree branches as it made its way back harvest the wheat.

These are the first rows marked out for our new planting of hazelnuts.

So we decided it was time to plant a few more trees.  We had a neighbor come and mark out the rows using GPS.  Then at the cross-hairs we planted a tree.  Most of the trees were Wepsters (the main variety), with a mix of pollenizer trees as well.  (Hazelnuts can’t pollenize themselves so you plant pollenizer trees throughout the orchard).

These newly planted trees should start to produce nuts in about 4 years, and we hope they will produce nuts for another 4 generations!  Farming is an industry that is always changing and evolving, and the type of crops that you plant in the ground is no different.  It will be exciting to see these trees as they grow literally right in our backyard and seeing a little bit of that large scale “changing of the farming landscape” up close.

Hazelnut Harvest 2017

20 Oct

I saw that I last posted right around a million days ago (yeesh) I have a good excuse, mostly because I hate getting vomit on my keyboard and since this baby started growing that’s about all I seem to be able to manage lately…making it to the toilet.  But that said, there has been so much going on at the farm that I finally sat down this morning and decided I might as well give a quick update on filbert (hazelnut) harvest.

Last year it was a muddy mess, it was one of those years when you see the rain start to fall and you jokingly think that maybe it won’t ever stop.  And then weeks later, the joke is over and it actually never stops.  So this year, having more typical fall weather, a little sun and wind, some good rains, then a little sun and wind, did us well for a nice harvest.  A dusty….but better than mud harvest!!

Unfortunately due to the weather this past year the yields were down quite a bit, and it’s always hard to end the year on a down harvest.

So we had good and bad come along with our final 11th crop for 2017.  I have done a number of posts as to how we actually harvest the nuts.  You click on the links below to see more of those details.
Filbert Harvest from Start to Middle
Hazelnut Harvest…the Rest of the Story

I did do a Facebook live video from the seat of my harvester on one of the last days we were out in the orchard.  Please excuse all technical difficulties…my video skills are rusty at best!
You can check it out here.

And since farming is often a family affair, here are a few pictures of me with our boys while they rode along. 

I do have a lot to catch you all up on, I think we harvested about 4 crops, baby #3 is growing rapidly, as are the crops that we have planted for the 2018 harvest.   So I’m hoping to do some catching up in the weeks to come.  Hope you all have a great Friday!!

Improving Water Management in Hazelnuts

17 Jul

On our farm we are always looking for ways to do more with less, improve efficiencies, work smarter and get more done with our hard working hours and dollars. 

We have slowly been moving away from hand line and wheel line irrigation and have made significant investments in linear irrigation systems. This year we made another move to even higher water use efficiency with drip irrigation in our hazelnut orchards. 

We plan to have at least half of our hazelnuts irrigated by drip this year. Which is exciting for many reasons. 

1. Labor: We used to water with hand lines. This took a minimum of three people to move pipe two to three times a day, around 2 hours each move.  And the cost of labor alone is going up significantly.  With our drip it will take only one person to turn the pump on, monitor valves and lines. 

2. Water when you want it and where you want it. Our drip system can easily be run from the pump that we already have and also can run at night when our pump is free from use on other crops. Simply put we can fill in the gaps to keep our pump running most efficiently. 

3. We can inject fertilizer by small doses to our trees. We consider this a spoon feeding approach and it’s shown to help trees grow and produce nuts at a more consistent level. 

4. We can keep our trees healthier by being able to get into the orchard at anytime to spray foliar feeds, kill pests or protect from disease, and not have to pick up pipe that is always in the way. 

5. Water from drip goes further. Drip irrigation has a 95% efficiency rating as compared to handlines which run at only 65%.  Factors such as evaporation and run off are considered when making this determination. 

Here’s a short video of our drip coming out of the tubing. 

You may wonder why we waited so long with a list of positives this long, well on the flip side of the pro and con list lies the cost of putting a system like this onto our farm. Luckily we already had the irrigation pump, but we had to add significant amount of underground mainline, put in a special filtration system, buy thousands of feet of drip tubing, build specialized equipment for putting the lines out and rolling them up. You can see it’s an investment in water, labor efficiency and equipment. 

So why now? Well first of all we have to budget beforehand in order to make improvements on our farm.  This is one improvement that we finally found room to add to our budget.  

And secondly we had some financial help from agencies that are focused on energy and water efficient projects. One being the Natural Resource and Conservation Service (NRCS) and the other Energy Trust of Oregon. Both gave us funds to help us implement this project. We also have Stettlers Supply in Salem Oregon to thank for doing a great job on installation and heading up the project. 

This investment is one of those long term plans that I often reference. This is an improvement that will serve Matt and I as the third generation and hopefully the fourth, the fifth and on and on! 

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