Local farm owner branching out into hazelnuts

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Local farm owners are branching out into a new crop and it is believed to be one of the first of its kind in Amherstburg.

Scott and Katie Deslippe are converting their 38-acre Concession 6 South farm to hazelnuts and it will be the first commercial hazelnut operation in Amherstburg, the largest in Essex County and one of the largest in southwestern Ontario. They are also working with Oregon State University and the University of Guelph on the project as well as a joint trial is also being conducted.

“This is one of the largest field trials for five new varieties (of hazelnuts) in Ontario,” said Scott, adding there are 250 trees each of the five new varieties that are going into the ground as part of the trial.

Local farm owner Scott Deslippe is planting
hazelnut trees on 38 acres of land on Concession 6 South. He and wife Katie hope to start getting a return on their investment within five years.

Scott said 2,000 trees should be planted this fall with about 3,000 more to be planted in the spring.

“The biggest user in Ontario is Ferrera,” he explained, noting that some of the brands that the company’s Brantford plant produces are such things as Nutella and Ferrero Rocher among many others. “They’ve got a demand in the plant in Brantford for 23,000 acres in Ontario.”

Scott said he read about hazelnuts about four years ago and began doing more research.

“I was looking for something different to do here instead of doing cash crops,” he said.

After trips to Oregon and British Columbia, the Deslippes spent two years getting ready to plant. A light crop usually comes in the fourth year, said Scott, with a full harvest expected by year five. He said about $180,000 has been spent on irrigation, pumps and related infrastructure but estimates revenue will be about $90,000 annually once the trees mature.

“Compared to cash crops, it probably has five to six times the revenue,” he said.

Chris Jia plants one of the hazelnut trees on the Deslippe farm on Concession 6 South.

Hazelnut trees are resilient, Scott continued, and usually last about 70-80 years without having to be replanted.

A research station in Simcoe has shown that hazelnut trees can thrive in southwestern Ontario and Scott said, “now it’s a matter of getting trees in the ground that will start producing.”

After the years of research and investment, Scott said it is nice to see the results start to come to fruition.

“When you start looking across the field and see all the trees, it’s a good feeling,” he said.

Until the trees mature and start producing, he said they are growing hay to provide some cash flow. The Deslippes also are opening a nursery so they can sell trees to others. They also plan to allow people to pick hazelnuts once the trees start producing.

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