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thinking about planting a hazelnut orchard

 
Posts: 22
Location: marengo county, al
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We're about to have about 30 acres of our land cleared of pine trees. I've been thinking about planting hazelnuts for income. Anyone know anything about growing them in the southeastern states? We live in west-central Alabama.
 
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I'm not sure. I imagine disease would be a big issue, so off the bat I would hunt for the absolute most blight immune cultivars out there. "resistant" probably won't cut it. I'd definitely consider diversifying into other trees and shrubs, for a variety of reasons. How are persimmons down there, including Asian varieties? What about pecans for longer term income?
 
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Wow,  30 acres.
That seems like a big chunk of land to deal with at once.
Hazelnuts are often described as an understory plant.
If you have the pines removed in strips or patches, it might be a better set up for hazels.
I don't know much about hazelnuts in the south aside for the need to seek out blight resistant varieties.

If you have enough precipitation, maybe blueberries would be a good choice .
 
pollinator
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Welcome, Nate.

Single-species orchards are technically monocrops, not counting whatever ground covers grown in the spaces between. Permaculture typically frowns upon monocrops.

I love hazels. They are an understory tree, though, like mulberry, and love the shade. I would suggest you look at what other species of tree, shrub, and understory plant like to live in conjunction with hazels. Even if you simply supplement an orchard planting with appropriate guild species, you will be able to affect things like your orchard's scent profile, that thing that will draw hazel pests to your plantings. If you have a whole forest planted, even though it might be hazel-heavy, it will be less attractive to the sheer number of species-specific pests you would otherwise draw.

Especially as you are in the southeastern states, you might have more success if you ensure that your hazels are shaded, at least partially, at the height of the day.

But let us know how it goes, and good luck.

-CK
 
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Nate,

as many have mentioned on here, the way they are planted matters. I would recommend doing some research on whether there are cultivars that do well in the South, I know there are some that do fine here. First job is always to decide if they will thrive in your location.

Second thing is to figure out what your market will be. 30 acres is a good amount, but may not be enough to justify the price of the harvesting equipment. That is way too much to pick by hand. Can you hire the equipment in to harvest? What is the cost of that? The main buyer in my understanding is Ferrero Rocher, who I believe are making their candies in the US from US-grown nuts. They will only accept certain varieties, due to processing requirements. Will those varieties grow there (they are apparently a voracious buyer).

Third, check out
Mark Shepard. He grows them commercially. Everything I know I have learned from him. If you are serious about making this kind of investment, he is probably a very good guy to hire to get it right. He has knowledge of intercropping and animal systems combined with hazels. He is one of the greats in Permaculture in my opinion. I watch his videos just because I think he is hilarious too, but the content is robust. If you are not planning on intercropping or using animals symbiotically, a nut forum is more likely going to provide you with more answers than permies, we are generally thinking about layers and stacking even in the design phase.

Very intersted in your future plans and I hope this helps.
 
nate sherve
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Location: marengo county, al
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I won't plant the whole 30 at once (if I do plant it all), I have a lot of invasive non-native plants that need to be taken care of (wisteria, kudzu, and privet being the most), which is a main reason we're having the timber cleared. I'm also thinking about black walnut. I'm going to plant a good bit of black locust to prevent washouts and improve the soil, also for honeybees. Huckleberries are over the place, as well as persimmons and pecans. I'm thinking about raising sheep, too, but right now it's all thoughts and ideas that I think are worth looking into. The price of equipment needed is something I don't know yet.
I figured it'd be easy to hear from somebody who lives in this climate who knows about varieties that do well, so I'm asking here. I'll be reading around other places also. Thanks for the replies y'all have given, and please carry on.
 
pollinator
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Both pecans and black walnuts are grown in Missouri. Pecans are worth about ten times as much as walnuts. Some land is much better suited to one or the other though.

Native hazel bushes grow great in my yard. Grafted hazelnut trees live but never thrive. They don’t like it here. I never figured out why.

Hopefully, someone in here is from your neighborhood and can give you advice. I’d also look around the area and see what grows well there. Also, your state extension office is probably a good source of information.
 
nate sherve
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Location: marengo county, al
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We have both walnut and pecan growing on our place. They're both wild. Wild pecan is often pretty bitter, though. I could plant commercial bred pecans, but it would take a good while for it to start producing.
The point of growing any of these is for income (and family produce also), since I am medically retired from the military. I have no job skills that would move over to the civilian side. It would be nice to be able to stay home with the kids to raise them, instead of leaving that to the school...if that makes sense.
 
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I would definitely second the recommendation to look at what mark shepherd is doing. He also works with a company whose name escapes me that specializes in nursery stock that is regionally adapted for the types of species that fit within the savanna polyculture farm model.
 
Tj Jefferson
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I think he was working with Badgersett, but from one of the posters on here, they are not ready for primetime. They may have excellent genetics, but their business practice needs a complete overhaul. I think Todd Parr had a nightmare with them. Where did he go, he used to be a very good resource.

https://permies.com/wiki/74747/Badgersett-Research-Farm-USA
 
nate sherve
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On another plant...I wonder if chinkapins would do well as a product. I know they'll grow here, and, from what I've read, they grow back from the chestnut blight.
 
Tj Jefferson
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Nate, I have a whole bunch planted. The nuts are too small to be commercial.

Lets shift gears. Harvesting the nuts is almost certainly a barrier. Essentially to do it commercially you need to monocrop as near as I can tell. You can intercrop in the alleys but the harvesting machines cant pick every fourth tree.

If you are not monocropping, then getting the nutrition from the nuts into you becomes the issue. I have one current strategy, which is eating squirrels and turkeys. They convert the fat and protein maybe 30%. Same with pigs. I would rather have 30% of an intercrop than 100% of a monocrop with much larger inputs. And the squirrels are always available, so no need to store them in a fridge. I have thought about installing buckets and seeing if they will harvest them for me. The benefit is that you don't need Rocher-approved varieties, just any native hazels will do. So go find some and plant the nuts. You may be able to get them from the state forestry, I pay around 50 cents per.

Pigs can convert a wide range of nuts, I have chinese chestnuts, chinqapin, oaks, and honeylocust. They can really eat a lot in the fall. Then they are delicious and marketable. On 30 acres you could raise a lot of animals, and pastured pork is a premium product. I looked at raising the nuts and found out it was not going to be successful, and I am operating on 10 (maybe 30 soon) acres. In a part of the country much better for hazels.
 
nate sherve
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Tj, I have also been thinking about raising hogs along with the sheep,  mostly for family food, though, and it will help me clean up the overgrowth of these invasive non-native plants. I have no idea on how to sell meat, but I am thinking about it. It just seems easier to sell plant produce than livestock. I am very new to farming anything, since I grew up in a heavily populated area...
 
pollinator
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Wow, I am really disheartened to hear about Badgersett being so awful. I went to a presentation about hazelnuts some years ago at an organic farming conference. I was really super impressed with Badgersett at the time, but did not have the right place for pursuing the idea. Once we moved here, though, I actually put them on my giant ToDo list, because our hedge row that I am working on would be great for their nuts, I thought, for small scale nut production.

But not if they take money and then never deliver plants! We cannot afford to spend our plant money in that way - we actually expect plants in return. 🙀 Shocking, I know! 😸

So I am sad to learn that maybe I was fooled at that seminar, but VERY GLAD I read the reviews before parting with a heap of money. It is really a great service that this site provides, having the reviews. I wasn’t even aware of that. Thanks to Tj for linking to it!!!
 
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nate sherve wrote:We're about to have about 30 acres of our land cleared of pine trees. I've been thinking about planting hazelnuts for income. Anyone know anything about growing them in the southeastern states? We live in west-central Alabama.



Think about planting something tall between each of the hazel nut trees (alternate spacing) the second species could be something like pear or apple or even peach, these second species trees need to be full size trees to give the hazels the partial shade they love.
You also want to think about what you can plant under the trees, Nitrogen fixers are great for this location, peanut works really well as do most of the other N fixers that grow less than three feet tall, that way you won't need to fertilize but just mulch with either an actual mulch or mulch with compost.

A monoculture orchard means lots of inputs a setup similar to the above means far less inputs and that equates to better (more) profit margin.

Another method would be to plant trees in groupings where you had say 10 hazel trees in a bunch then ten fruit trees then ten hazel trees and so on.
And yet another method would be to use what I like to call swale and berm rows, this is where you plant trees in three to four rows all the way down what could be a swale line, then you have a wide enough space for a crop planting (space for your harvesting machine to make a single pass) then another line of trees.
This last one is how Mark Shepard does his Chestnut groves. In this method you plant closely then thin out the weak trees, leaving you with very sturdy trees. However, hazel nuts tend to be very bush like so you might not get the efficiency with hazels as you do with single trunk chestnuts.

Chinkapin is not a viable saleable chestnut, they are small and bitter even when roasted. If you are looking for money nut crops you have to get the right varieties or you will not have a ready market.
Don't rule out buying enough for one or two runs of trees, then you can use the branches pruned to create new trees by rooting the cuttings and planting them out once the roots are well established. (this is usually termed cloning by orchard men)

Redhawk
 
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Most of my hazels (about 30 so far, and I plant another half dozen each winter) are interspersed with chestnuts, walnuts, and coppice willows. This is working pretty well...I cut willow every second year to get bigger poles, so during that spring the nut trees get more light and airflow, but by the height of summer they're back in partial shade. This helps with their drought intolerance, which is the only weakness the trees have given our climate's tendency to tip into Mediterranean mode some years. I just collected the first little haul of nuts, many of which are empties that fell due to a dry spell we're having.
 
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I am also experimenting with hazelnuts. I had 50 bushes planted here in the midwest. I started with open pollinated seedlings from Riverbend Nursery in Fargo and lost about 2/3 to...spray drift? I replanted 4 “Beast” and “Grand Traverse” cultivars from Great Plains Nursery and have Cortland BR Seedlings coming in the Spring. I originally wanted to do this 5-6 years ago and visited Badgersett for a tour. The man was a bit of a genius, his business model was shaky at best. Are they in business still? I would love an update on what you decided to do Nate.
 
Tj Jefferson
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I ended up planting 4 names hybrids which were quite expensive two years ago. They have gotten big enough to take cuttings this winter. I am not picky about growth habit and they have not yet produced. So I can’t comment on the success of this idea, but it was in my price range and a test to see if it could be massively expanded. As part of this my propagating technique is, um, rustic. Basically rooting hormone on a fresh cut second year stem, then into a deep bed of composted wood chips. I’m doing about 500 cuttings this winter. Total time outlay was a couple hours. I have other posts on here regarding propagating the lazy way with hardwood cuttings, and I’ll update when they manifest survival or failure. I’m doing several different species this year and have no idea which will perform. I started with goumi and serviceberry and that was great, so now it’s a broader experiment.
 
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Tj Jefferson wrote:I ended up planting 4 names hybrids which were quite expensive two years ago. They have gotten big enough to take cuttings this winter. I am not picky about growth habit and they have not yet produced. So I can’t comment on the success of this idea, but it was in my price range and a test to see if it could be massively expanded. As part of this my propagating technique is, um, rustic. Basically rooting hormone on a fresh cut second year stem, then into a deep bed of composted wood chips. I’m doing about 500 cuttings this winter. Total time outlay was a couple hours. I have other posts on here regarding propagating the lazy way with hardwood cuttings, and I’ll update when they manifest survival or failure. I’m doing several different species this year and have no idea which will perform. I started with goumi and serviceberry and that was great, so now it’s a broader experiment.



Hey TJ, which hybrids did you plant here in Virginia?  I just planted 5 in my newly created food forest, but they were just called "American Hazelnut" when I purchased the bare root seedlings from Cold Stream Farm.  I did not know that there were hybrids more suited to Virginia.  Do you think I made a big mistake with what I planted?
 
Tj Jefferson
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Edible landscaping - I think eta and one other I don’t have my records here.
 
Joshua LeDuc
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TJ, thanks.  I will check it out.  I've been to that place a couple times and have purchased some things from them.  Nice to have a place like that so close to home!
 
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I would mix it up, avoid a monoculture, there has been some serious problems with fire blight and other diseases effecting hazelnut fairly recently, but a new hybrid has been developed, its not cheap.
blueberries might just grow real well if it was a forest of pines.
with 30 acres you could try different things and have several viable crops
gift
 
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