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wellington womble

Commercial hazel orchard info

If, hypothetically speaking, I were thinking of planting a small, commercial hazelnut orchard, where might I find out more about starting such a venture?

I’m thinking of things like how nuts are sold and in what sort of quantities, yields per acre, what sort of acreage might be a viable venture, what sort of man hours are needed and how are they distributed, (ie will I need staff and is it going to work for us to living offsite) is harvesting usually outsourced or is machinery bought or hired, and for how much. Not so much ‘how to plant trees’, because I can figure that out later, if the whole project is viable (although I have just watched a very informative video on Oregon Hazel orchards, which suggested, among other things, planting the trees with the roots pointing downwards!) I’m specifically looking for info about UK Hazel production, not Oregon.

It will be a small ‘working retirement’ sort of affair. I don’t need to make a living off it, but I’d like it to make a reasonable return on my investment.
Mistress Rose

It depends on what you want the hazel for. If it is for nuts, than you are talking about a different sort of plant to the normal hazel grown in the UK. I don't know much about it, but think Kentish cob nuts are a good place to go looking. You will have a problem with squirrels as they tend to take the nuts before they are mature and can seriously damage any crop.

If you are looking to sell rods, you can rent out a good coup for a few hundred pounds an acre to be cut by the person renting it. Deer fencing will be necessary, and cutting every 5-7 years depending on what the rods are used for, how hazel grows on the site and weather.

In either case it will take the plants a good few years to establish. The ones we have planted in our garden took at least 10 years to get to cutting stage, but we have a thin soil over solid chalk, so it might be a bit better on better soil.
tahir

we have 226 hazels, the year before last we had s huge crop so thought about selling them, I could get 3.40 p/kg, it takes about 15-20 mins to pick a kilo.

don't do it thinking it'll bring in any income unless you're going to get a crew of eastern Europeans in to pick.
Mistress Rose

What variety do you have Tahir? Do you coppice them every so often, or leave them to grow? If you coppice them, do they make reasonable splitting rods? Sorry so many questions, but we grow hazel for the rods and I don't know too much about them as a nut crop.
wellington womble

we have 226 hazels, the year before last we had s huge crop so thought about selling them, I could get 3.40 p/kg, it takes about 15-20 mins to pick a kilo.

don't do it thinking it'll bring in any income unless you're going to get a crew of eastern Europeans in to pick.


You mean I can’t get one of these?

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Y8QSM2D_KZ0

How much ground do you have your trees on, Tahir? I was thinking (vaguely) of 5-10 acres. You pick by hand, rather than waiting for nuts to fall and raking? (I’d wondered if it was generally too wet here to do that)

I was thinking of a specialist nut variety, not coppice. Nuts are grown differently, with a ‘tree’ shape instead of a coppice stool. I’m aware it will be a long term venture, and I’m definitely planning on controlling squirrels. What I don’t know is what sort of size it would need to be viable, how much time it might take, what sort of market there might be and whether harvesting can be outsourced (as is common for hay or wheat). I’m fairly sure it wouldn’t be viable by hand.

If it turns out you need 200 acres and 600k of machinery to even think of making a profit, then it obviously won’t be for us. If you need to harvest in August or Hand pick, it probably won’t be for us. But if you can hire harvest kit in September, and make a small profit selling wholesale from 5-10 acres it might be something that works for us. It needn’t be a living, but it also won’t be a hobby.

I’m just kicking around ideas at the moment, but one has to start somewhere, with something.
tahir

If it turns out you need 200 acres and 600k of machinery to even think of making a profit


Something like that.

I'd say we have around 1.5 acres of hazels, around 20 fruiting cultivars, to pick from the floor you need:

really good pest control
dry weather
really good weed control
really short grass

We have 3 1/2 rows and we prune by tractor mounted hedge trimmer every other year.

Not interested in the timber byproducts so haven't looked at that at all. We have enough prunings out of the orchard to feed BBQ, pizza oven and bonfires
tahir

Might be worth talking to this lot:

http://kentishcobnutsassociation.org.uk/

I'm not a commercial grower, these guys will probably be able to inform better
wellington womble

I was clearly having a moment yesterday, I looked at some of them, but assumed it was a Kent based group! I also found a consultant, which is fine as far as it goes, but I’d like some basics first. Mistress Rose

A way of making even a relatively small hazel orchard viable might be to have truffle trees. Not sure if the varieties available are suitable for nut production, but truffles are worth a lot more than hazel nuts. dpack

what a good idea, ummmm. gregotyn

One tree 2 crops? sounds a good idea to me! just need a trained dog for the truffle harvest. buzzy

One tree 2 crops? sounds a good idea to me! just need a trained dog for the truffle harvest.

Or a pig. According to the internet they don't need training, though do have a tendency to eat the truffles!

Henry
wellington womble

A way of making even a relatively small hazel orchard viable might be to have truffle trees. Not sure if the varieties available are suitable for nut production, but truffles are worth a lot more than hazel nuts.

They’re a different variety, and are pruned differently. I don’t say you wouldn’t get nuts, but not commercially. Also, the harvesting issue remains, and you can’t use automated harvesting, because soil compacting is not optimal for the truffles. All in all, it’s one or the other in any practical sense.

Unless I’m missing something (which is possible, because this is really only a vague idea at the moment) I don’t think there is the infrastructure to support it in this country. There is smaller scale harvest equipment available, but it would need to be imported and I’m anticipating actually selling the things to be a headache, which I really don’t need. These little ventures don’t need to make me a living, but they’re not hobbies either, so while I can be indulgent to some degree, I can’t completely throw money at them.
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