Barb Foulke and her husband, Fritz, plan in the next four years to have hazelnut trees planted on 250 acres.
Currently, they have hazelnut trees on about 210 acres.
“We have 175 trees at full maturity,” Foulke said, “and the rest of these are babies coming along.”
The rest of the land — in two tracts north and east of Albany — is leased and currently is used to grow grass seed.
“But as I march forward, it will turn into hazelnuts,” she said. “We’re short 40 acres of plantings and we’re doing 10 a year, so it will take me the four more years to do the planting of the full 250 acres of hazelnuts.”
The couple purchased a 60-acre orchard near Monmouth in 1998. At that time, it had over 6,000 mature trees that were poorly maintained, so the first order of business for the Foulkes was to stabilize the operation.
Selling directly to the consumer ended up to be the method that seemed the most practical to the other side of their lifestyle — he is a family practice physician four days a week and she works as a nurse practitioner two days a week, both at a clinic in Keizer.
Freddy Guys (Fritz’s childhood nickname) Hazelnuts had an intense beginning, Foulke said.
“I started with a scoop and a little plastic bag,” Foulke said, but eventually the couple put in a drying and sorting facility in a former horse barn on the property and began processing their own nuts.
Selling to the commodity markets proved to be harder than they anticipated, Foulke said, and hazelnut prices bottomed out in 2001, prompting her to begin selling nuts directly to consumers.
Freddy Guys Hazelnuts are sold in bulk all over the nation and to other parts of the world, including China and Vietnam. A large portion of sales, however, are direct orders from repeat customers, restaurants, delis, small distributors and at farmers’ markets around the state.
“Our online sales are ridiculous,” she says proudly.
The Foulkes’ three children are in and out of the Monmouth homestead at various times of the year, helping out with farm chores such as pruning and spraying, orchard cleanup and other late winter-early spring work and late summer in addition to fall harvest-time duties such as sweeping up nuts.
Local teenagers are enlisted to help with nut cracking, bagging and packaging, she said.
Most of the profits over the first several years in business were plowed into developing new products and purchasing equipment to help get those products to market. Ideas like granola, pancake mix, diced hazelnuts, pizza balls, hazelnut butter, “defatted hazelnuts” (flour), meal and other items are created and sold.
Five years ago, Foulke purchased an imported hazelnut roaster and a custom oil press that were installed on the property.
Now, hazelnut oil is also sold under the Freddy Guys name.
Freddy Guys Hazelnuts
Location: Monmouth, Ore.
Owners: Fritz and Barb Foulke, children Toby, Jocie and Evan
Farming since: 1998
Total acreage: 250, with 210 in hazelnuts