Tanner Koenig, RK Farms, Aurora, OR
While hazelnuts run deep in the roots of Hazelnut Growers of Oregon (HGO) members, RK Farms, in Aurora, fourth generation Tanner Koenig has a diversified family business including peaches, hay, beef cattle, seed crops, apples, beer, hard cider and a hazelnut wash and drying facility. He farms with his parents Jeff and Jill, wife Nicole and their four kids Taryn, Trey, Tessa and Tyson. Their first hazelnut orchard was planted by Tanner’s grandparents in the 1950’s, and the first washline was built in the1980’s. Since 2010 they have been planting the blight resistant varieties released by OSU and have continued to expand their wash and drying business with the industry.
Mid-September through October is the wash plant’s busy season, where they process hazelnuts from over 20 growers. They are able to receive the nuts in bulk, then wash and dry them within eight days of harvest. “What makes our bulk unloading unique is that it unloads trucks very quickly. We designed it utilizing shipping containers with bulk conveyors, they speed up the process, keeping lot identities uniform and accurate and insure a constant first-in first-washed system that results in the highest quality possible,” Tanner said. “We are always wanting more hazelnuts delivered to us, added volume helps with efficiencies in my business as well as for the processors I wash and dry for,” he added.
Tanner’s enthusiasm for farming is evident the minute he starts talking about their operation. “I love the variety farming brings. We get to play with the unknown and every day brings something different,” he said. While hazelnuts are the mainstay, they realize the importance of being diversified for long-term sustainability. He is always looking to farm more acres of open ground for seed crops or new orchard plantings. Tanner also has a direct to market peach orchard and is an owner of Vision Brewing, producing beer and hard ciders from ingredients they grow on the farm. Their Angus cow-calf operation also needs constant attention.
Tanner sits on the HGO Hazelnut Advisory Committee and sees many benefits of taking an active role in the co-op. “Being part of a co-op helps us vertically integrate, while having associated risks,” Tanner said. The Koenig’s have been Wilco members for many years and an HGO member from the beginning. The majority of their washing and drying business is for HGO, and they market most of their hazelnuts with the HGO cooperative.