By: Owen Roberts
Published: FCC Express, June 21, 2013

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Photo credit: JeanM1

Ontario’s agri-food diversity could soon expand further, into hazelnuts -– if enough producers can be found to grow them.

A handful of farmers near Lake Erie currently grow hazelnuts, but there’s potential to expand. A research program underway for several years has now identified high-yielding, disease-resistant varieties suitable for Ontario’s climate.

And the market appears to be hungry. In fact, John Kelly, vice-president of Erie Innovation and Commercialization, says the potential exists for about 10,000 hectares of hazelnut trees. It’s driven by Ferrero Inc. of nearby Brantford, which manufactures Nutella and Ferrero Rocher chocolates.

The company currently imports its hazelnut supply, but Kelly says it wants a stable, locally grown source. So, he’s on the hunt for farmers willing to grow them.

“We are now at the point where we need growers who are willing to commit to hazelnuts by putting some trees in the ground,” Kelly says. “This is an exciting new opportunity for Ontario farmers, especially for those who farm in our current tree fruit growing areas, such as Essex and Niagara.”

Kelly says hazelnuts can be grown anywhere in Ontario that apples are, and he calls the revenue potential -– about $2,000 an acre –- “significant.”

However, it takes time before that potential can be met.  Hazelnut trees take four years to start bearing fruit, and seven years to hit full production.

Kelly’s confident hazelnuts are ready for growers. Research involving or supported by industry, the University of Guelph, the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, the provincial ministry of agriculture and food and the Ontario Centres of Excellence, has established methods for fast and reliable seedling propagation, while gathering market intelligence and scoping out the infrastructure needed to support the sector.

Now, says Kelly, it’s a matter of securing growers. He can be reached at 519-426-7913.

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One Response to Hazelnut farmers wanted

  1. Helen MacAndrew says:

    I’m wondering if anyone would know if there’s a market for small scale growing? ie: hobby farm??