How long has your family-owned your farm?
Our farm is a century farm; my great grandfather bought the original farm in 1908 and he raised cows, pigs, and sheep. My grandfather continued the livestock tradition with a dairy. My father continued the dairy until government regulations forced him to sell the herd or upgrade facilities; he decided to go a different direction – heavier into row crops and grass seed. With my father (Gary) and brother (Brian), we are about 50/50 filberts and grass seed with red clover, crimson clover, and radish as a rotation.
Please offer some details about your farming history.
Growing up on the farm offered a lot of educational opportunities. At the time my siblings and I would probably not of thought of them that way (i.e. moving irrigation for beans, corn, and squash. Roguing noxious weeds out of grass seed and beans.) Now with my father, brother, and I all working together on the farm, we all share equal responsibility throughout the year for managing our crops, and, yes, moving irrigation and roguing is still in our job title.
Between the three of us, we all share responsibility for the management of our crops. My brother and I started Cruickshank Brothers LLC where we are currently working with 5 landlords on a crop share. Our wives will come out when they can (they both work full-time off-farm) with kids in tow to help plant or ride in machinery.
How long have you farmed hazelnuts (or when did you first plant)?
The first filberts planted on the farm were in the ‘40s by my grandfather. My father remembers from a young age weighing burlap sacks of filberts that were handpicked by workers and paying them per pound daily. There was a short period after the Columbus Day Storm when all the trees were removed due to damage. They were replanted a few years later. We started planting the new cultivars in 2006 when there were varieties resistant to EFB.
How many total acres of nuts (if you don’t mind sharing) and what varieties do you grow?
We currently grow 400+ acres of Barcelona, Ennis (losing battle), Jefferson, Yamhill, Wepster, McDonald, and Polly-O’s.
Anything you have done that is innovative or different?
For us, once we started planting Jefferson and Yamhill varieties, we thought the best and cheapest way to increase our acreage of filberts was to start tying off the suckers to make new plants. Once we identify the field we are going to tie off, we will not spray the last sucker spray in the fall to have a larger sucker to start from in the spring. We have planted a few hundred acres with this method.
Any other comments you might have on what you like about farming hazelnuts, outlooks on the future, or struggles you have had?
Filberts have been a great crop, especially over the past 15 years with the price increase. Get them past the first year and they are a pretty hardy plant. With a good nutrition program for the trees, it has really helped take the big swings out of production. In the near future, I feel the industry will need to build more infrastructure for washing and drying. There are a lot of trees coming into production and very few new facilities going up. I know HGO will find a place to sell our nuts but if we cannot get them washed and dried in a timely fashion, mold and rancidity will become a bigger issue. With more of our new planting coming into production, finding good seasonal help to participate in a 2nd harvesting crew will be difficult to find.
How long have you been a member of HGO?
Our farm has been an HGO member for over 20 years.
What are the benefits of membership or anything you would like to say about HGO?
I like the direction that HGO is heading; trying to rely less on unstable foreign markets and focusing on value-added. When people ask where they can find our nuts, it’s nice to be able to direct them to Wilco or certain supermarkets.