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Making Connections – The Resilient Farmers Behind Our BC Grown Hazelnuts

June 10, 2022
Simon Vignola with Steve and Kevin from Fraser Valley Hazelnuts

After a couple years of getting though the pandemic and being unable to travel, we’re excited to be able to start getting back out there making in-person connections with the people who grow and process the foods we proudly offer to people across the country. We’ve been working with Fraser Valley Hazelnuts for the last 3 harvests, and it was great to finally put faces to the names and voices we’ve gotten to know over the last few years. We also really enjoyed getting to see their farm and processing facility in person, and learn more about where the BC hazelnut industry is at now after it was decimated by a blight that arrived in 2005

Even before the blight, the BC Hazelnut industry was already in the difficult position of being relatively small compared to other types of agricultural farming in BC and beyond. As of 2022, there’s now only a handful of farms in BC that produce more than a thousand pounds a year. Without large volumes being grown, there are extremely limited options and equipment in place for processing the nuts after they are harvested, and with smaller volumes also comes relatively higher production costs along with less support systems in place. This continues to further put BC hazelnut farmers at a disadvantage on the global market with regards to getting their crop harvested, processed, and then sold.

Prior to the blight devastation we worked with another BC hazelnut farmer and who also operated a hazelnut processing facility and offered processing for other smaller growers, at the time there was three farmers in BC that also processed hazelnuts for smaller growers. Once the blight hit and the hazelnut trees health declined, the future of the industry was uncertain at best. All three of the processors went out of business and sold their equipment and land. This forced us to look further to find the quality of hazelnuts we were used to, and we begin to import them from Oregon.

Hazelnut trees are wind pollinated, meaning insects do not pollinate it. Pollination season in BC begins in February or March.
Kevin shows Simon Vignola where freshly harvested hazelnuts are delivered and begin being processed.

After a number of years of being unable to buy BC grown hazelnuts, we’re now very happy to be working with the family who operates Fraser Valley Hazelnuts. They started their journey in hazelnut farming in 2016, and began by replanting some orchards with hazelnut trees resistant to the blight. They also purchased parts of processing equipment from all three of the previous processors to assemble and start their own processing plant. They want to ensure that there is the ability to process hazelnuts in BC, for their own harvests as well as to support other hazelnut farmers in getting their harvests processed and sold, which is integral to the industry as a whole recovering.

As with most things, after a collapse is a slow recovery. Prior to the hazelnut blight there was approximately 2.2 – 2.5 million pounds of hazelnuts produced in BC in a good year. Now post blight in 2021 the harvest was just under 100,000 lb, which was up from 45,000 lb in 2020. Many orchards have now been replanted with a new generation of young healthy trees which are far less susceptible to the blight. These new orchards are just starting to produce in earnest now and it’s expected that the yields will nearly double each year for the next decade until the trees reach maturity. Right now none of the orchards are certified organic, but as they continue to produce larger volumes, the plan is to begin to transition some to organic in a few years time.

We’re very happy to be working with Fraser Valley Hazelnuts to support farmers and food production right here in BC, Canada. While a global food society has many benefits, the last few years have shown how integral it is that we don’t forget and devalue our own local food production and systems to improve food security for all. It’s amazing to see the hazelnut industry in BC recovering, and we’re proud to offer fantastic BC grown and processed hazelnuts to Canadians across the country.

2 comments for Making Connections – The Resilient Farmers Behind Our BC Grown Hazelnuts

  1. Thank you very much for continuing to source out our local farmers. I have to buy more hazel nuts instead of almonds etc that are grown out of B.C./Canada. I want to buy local food. I know that this is more work for you-yet if you have a page on your shop page that features products grown in Canada-that also helps us to support our local farmers
    It is so important to make sure that we support our local farmers-governments don’t care. Thank you very much.

  2. Very pleased to read about the recovering BC hazelnut orchards.

    Currently, it is crucial to grow and purchase as close to home as possible…..

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