Hazelnut facility opens doors in Donald
The city of Donald's new business development is nuts. Literally.
A massive, 120,000-square-foot hazelnut processing factory owned by farming collective Hazelnut Growers of Oregon opened its doors at a ribbon cutting ceremony last week. Construction on the facility began in November 2016 and full production is set to begin in September.
Oregon's hazelnut crop is expected to grow in the future, and HGO wants to be prepared for that growth, according to Patrick Gabrish, HGO vice president of sales and marketing. The Willamette Valley's about 800 hazelnut farms' production averaged over $100 million each year for the last five years. HGO processed 15,000 tons of hazelnuts from about 200 of those farms last year, and the new facility has room to expand.
HGO's former processing facility in Cornelius was 30 years old, inefficient and out of the way, Gabrish said.
"We needed to put the facility where the growers are," he said. "This is right in the center of the valley, and next to I-5."
The new facility employs 55 workers, and will be able to receive 160,000 pounds of hazelnuts per hour, with storage space for 10,800,000 pounds of hazelnuts in four storage silos on site. The facility will handle storing, pasteurizing, roasting, slicing, dicing and butter manufacturing.
Currently one of the largest markets for hazelnuts is whole unshelled nuts sent to China for New Year's celebrations, where the nuts are brined for flavor and ceremonially cracked. Hazelnut products are also hugely popular in European markets, and Gabrish said HGO hopes the American market will soon catch on.
"We're looking at growing the domestic market with value added products," Gabrish said.
Gabrish said HGO hopes to turn hazelnuts into a household American staple.
Hazelnut grower Tim Butler, from Stayton, said the facility was a necessary step for growers in the valley to create a viable competitive industry. Butler started growing hazelnuts five years ago, when he saw that the market was growing, and planted 150 acres.
"Right now (the industry) is a teenager starting to grow up," he said.
Donald Mayor Rick Olmstead represented the city during the ribbon cutting.
"Five years ago we saw an industrial park as writing on a piece of paper, and then we had this… there are a lot of words to describe it… but my favorite is humongous," Olmstead said.
After the event Olmstead praised the collaboration between the city and HGO.
"Today is the result of a lot of hard work for all involved, the Hazelnut Growers, Donald industrial parks and the City of Donald," he said. "We worked together and produced something great."