How are Hazelnuts Processed?
The steps involved in taking dirty in-shell nuts from the ground to finished, food-grade kernels is a complicated and expensive process. Typically, hazelnuts are washed, dried, sized, shelled, sorted, packed and pasteurized by the processor they are delivered to. We are working to build partnerships with other interested organic hazelnut producers and wholesalers who want to see organic hazelnut volume increase in Oregon. This will require a capital raising campaign to create a new appropriately sized facility that prioritizes, but may not be exclusive to, organic hazelnuts. To learn more about the state of the art in nut processing, the Oregon Organic Hazelnuts Cooperative (OOH) toured the Central Valley in 2017 to see organic walnut and almond processing facilities. The highlights of our tour are captured below:
The OOH members went on a research trip in June 2017 to explore the state of the art in nut processing in California’s Central Valley. We visited Jessee Nut Manufacturing in Chico, CA to learn more about their turn-key processing systems. They offer a 500 lb/hr line and a 2000 lb/hr line that will shell 2000 lb/hr of in-shell hazelnuts to kernels, run the kernels through a debris vibrator, and send the hazelnut kernels onto an optical sorting line to remove damaged kernels.
The OOH members visited Fillmore Farms in Gridley, CA during our 2017 nut tour of the Central Valley. We were referred to Fillmore Farms as a good implementation of Jessee’s Shelling line for walnuts. The Fillmore family graciously took several hours to tour us through their orchard and processing facility with 20 minutes notice beforehand!
The OOH members visited Big Tree Organics in Turlock, CA during our 2017 tour. We were so excited to meet Wendy Larson who has served as the General Manager of Big Tree Organics for the past 20+ years. Wendy is the daughter of Glenn Anderson, owner of Anderson Almond Farm, one of the original organic almond growers in Hilmar, CA. Big Tree Organics was an organic almond coop up through 2005, after which they dissolved their Coop in favor of a for-profit business that aggregates organic almonds and does retail and wholesale distribution for its growers. She talked us through many of their lessons learned in creating and running an almond cooperative for over 20 years.
The last stop on our tour the OOH members visited Goin Nuts in Madera, CA. There we met with Dale Alquist who runs a steam pasteurization facility. Most of Big Tree Organic’s Almonds travel through this facility to do required 4 log kill pasteurization of organic almonds. The Goin Nuts facility has modified a chicken pasteurizer (JBT Corporation) to layout almond kernels on a belt that treats them with an 8 second steam treatment followed by 2 minutes of ambient air flow to return the kernels to normal temperature as soon as possible. This avoids changing the flavor of the almond by making the heat treatment as short as possible. The OHGA would like to see this solution be implemented in Oregon to support organic hazelnut pasteurization.
In 2018, the OOH is working on finalizing an Organic Hazelnut Processing Facility Business Plan for creating our own smaller scale, custom farm lot, hazelnut processing facility. We are talking to our members, future partners, growers, processors and wholesalers to work towards a fund raising campaign to build a facility prioritized for organic hazelnuts. This total cost does not include the cost for a steam pasteurization line, but does include the shelling line, optical sorter and miscellaneous other equipment. We will be updating this page with our progress on this project and we welcome anyone who wants to work with us to expand organic hazelnut processing & production in Oregon.