Eugene couple makes the most out of hazelnut harvest despite early season predictions

Ryan and Rachel Henderson make hazelnut brittle, toffee and chocolate during their busiest season of the year. Photo by Audrey Weil.

EUGENE, Ore. -- Industry experts predicted a lower supply and lower price of hazelnuts, or what we sometimes call filberts, in Oregon this year.

But Ryan and Rachel Henderson, the new owners of Hazelnut Hill, say even though the crop here is smaller this year, they're not expecting that to impact their sales.

"We wanted to highlight something that was truly unique to Oregon and my family's been growing filberts for two or three generations, three or four generations," Ryan said.

As for this year's shortage in supply, Ryan said it has to do with the weather.

"If you've got a real dry year one year and people are still irrigating or if they're not irrigating the trees still show a certain amount of stress and can reduce the yield the following year."

And he says blight, an invasive fungus that can kill the trees, is a continuous problem: "If you're downwind from somebody who's got a dirty orchard and they're not maintaining it you're gonna have problems. everybody's got problems. they're everywhere."

There were some early fears of a lower price from international competition, but Ryan expects things to even out okay given the demand for premium nuts and candy.

And this time of year, just before the holidays, is their busiest.

"This is 70 percent of our business during the holiday season so we are over here every day working," Rachel said.

In addition to the brittle, they do toffee and chocolates and the ever-popular gift boxes: "I go to the post office every day with loads."

Because despite those early season challenges, they're now the making the most out of their hazelnut harvest.

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