Longtime hazelnut farmer Rodney Chase of Lane County, Ore., has been recognized as the Nut Grower of the Year for 2010.
The award was presented on Jan. 26 at the annual meeting of the Nut Growers Society of Oregon, Washington and British Columbia.
Chase, 85, first became acquainted with the crop as a youngster, when his father planted a hazelnut orchard near Springfield, Ore., about eight decades ago.
After buying additional farmland near Jasper, Ore., about 50 years ago, Chase shifted the property from row crops to hazelnuts. He now manages about 100 acres at both sites.
A graduate of Oregon State University, Chase was active in trying out new hazelnut varieties developed by its researchers, including the Eastern filbert blight-resistant cultivars Lewis and Clark. His orchards continue to host experimental varieties developed at the university.
"He is constantly looking for ways to improve equipment for more efficient care and harvesting of filbert orchards," according to a press release from the Nut Growers Society.
For example, Chase invented a device that steers hazelnuts away from his picker tires, sparing them from getting crushed.
Chase eventually plans to retire from farming, but currently remains involved as he passes the operation's reins to his son, Don Chase.
-- Mateusz Perkowski