Hazelnut Growers of Oregon (HGO), a farmer-owned cooperative of more than 180 co-op members, celebrates the grand opening of its new 120,000-square-foot hazelnut processing facility in Donald, Oregon. When HGO merged with Wilco Farmers Cooperative in 2016, they immediately started on plans to build a new processing facility designed to meet rigorous new FSMA food safety requirements. Included in the new plant is the latest in nut processing technology and is the only hazelnut processing facility in the Pacific Northwest that uses steam pasteurization – a growing requirement by many customers, and a value to growers who deliver their crop to HGO.
Today, there are more than 800 family farms growing hazelnuts on over 70,000 acres in the Willamette Valley, according to Oregon Hazelnuts. The value growers received for their hazelnuts has averaged just over $100 million per year during the last five years. This translates into a total economic impact of more than $250 million for the state.
“Compared to other nuts, the domestic and international market potential for hazelnuts is largely untapped,” states Wilco CEO and President Tim Ramsey. “In a few years, the Oregon hazelnut crop production is anticipated to double, which is why we built this new facility. In addition, we have expanded our leadership team with experienced industry professionals with a focus on growing the business through innovation of value-added products. Hazelnuts are more than just a commodity and HGO is well positioned for the future.”
The new processing facility will begin full production in mid-September prior to the 2018 harvest. Last year, Hazelnut Growers of Oregon processed more than 15,000 tons and anticipates a significant increase this year. When complete, the Hazelnut Growers of Oregon, Donald facility will be capable of:
- Receiving 160,000 pounds of hazelnuts per hour
- Storing 320,000 pounds in the quality control silos
- Storing 10,800,000 pounds in the 4 massive storage silos (2.7MM pounds each)
- Steam pasteurizing more than 10,000 pounds of hazelnuts per hour
- Slicing/dicing in excess of 5,000 pounds of hazelnuts per hour
- Roasting more than 3,000 pounds of hazelnuts per hour
Breaking ground in Nov. 2016, the majority of construction work was completed by local and regional companies. Hazelnut Growers of Oregon will employ approximately 55 workers in the peak season. The new management team includes:
- Tim Ramsey, CEO and president, joined Wilco in December 2017. Previously Tim led Oregon Cherry Growers as president and CEO and has held senior leadership positions in the food industry for over 30 years.
- Randy Moore, Wilco’s CFO since 2008, has accepted the additional responsibility of COO for HGO.
- Patrick Gabrish, vice president of sales and marketing brings 30+ years of experience of successfully growing consumer-focused food and beverage companies.
- Jason Costa, operations manager, brings 13+ years of experience in the nut processing industry most recently with Blue Diamond Growers.
“The market potential for hazelnuts is enormous,” said Meredith Nagely, manager, Hazelnut Industry Office. “With increased production we will be better positioned to supply larger users of hazelnuts. In addition, current research supports greater interest in hazelnut consumption by consumers as a whole.”