In a move to catch up with the state’s fast-moving hazelnut industry, Oregon State University is in the process of hiring an orchard management specialist.
A committee will review applicants for the job on Friday and choose finalists for interviews in May.
Michael Bondi, director of OSU’s North Willamette Research and Extension Center in Aurora, said the person hired will devote about 80 percent of his or her time to hazelnuts, a $120 million annual crop. Oregon produces nearly all of U.S. hazelnuts, and growers have been adding 3,000 to 5,000 acres a year. The state went from 29,000 acres of hazelnuts in 2009 to an estimated 47,000 acres by the end of 2014.
“It’s definitely in a significant growth mode,” Bondi said. “There’s a huge number of new acres. We see steady growth for the next several years.”
But Oregon hasn’t had a statewide hazelnut specialist since Yamhill County Extension’s Jeff Olsen died unexpectedly in January 2014.
Michael Klein, executive director of the Hazelnut Marketing Board, said the industry needs someone who can carry the work of OSU researchers to growers in the field. “It’s something our industry feels is critically needed,” Klein said. “We could really use the help.”
Turkey is by far the world’s largest hazelnut growing region, but has been hit hard by weather problems in recent years. Oregon growers received record prices this past year due to a freeze that wrecked much of the Turkish production.
Bondi, the North Willamette director, said the Extension position will focus on production, including the establishment of new orchards and pest management and nutrition problems. Hazelnut genetics work is covered by OSU breeder Shawn Mehlenbacher on campus is Corvallis, Bondi said, but the North Willamette specialist will carry out basic field research and demonstrations in collaboration with growers.
The job pays $70,000 to $80,000 annually, Bondi said.
The new person will work out of the North Willamette center just east of Interstate 5 near Aurora.