sea­son goes nuts

Tasmanian Country - - FRONT PAGE - KAROLIN MACGREGOR

IT has been a slow and steady har­vest for hazel­nut grow­ers Christie Mcleod and Mick Del­phin.

As with many crops, last year’s ex­tremely wet spring has af­fected yields at the cou­ple’s Hazel­brae Hazel Nut or­chard near Ha­gley

Miss Mcleod said they ex­pected yields would be about 18 tonnes this year, down on the bumper 25-tonne crop they were hop­ing for.

Mr Del­phin said while the hazel­nut trees could deal with wet soil con­di­tions when they were dor­mant and had no leaves, last year’s very wet spring stretched into the new grow­ing pe­riod, which had af­fected the size and quan­tity of their nuts.

Har­vest is also tak­ing a bit longer this year.

Miss Mcleod said while they had al­ready har­vested some rows in the or­chard three times, nuts were still drop­ping.

“It has just been a re­ally strange sea­son,” she said.

“The trees seem to be hold­ing on to the nuts a lot longer than nor­mal. It might be be­cause of the spring and also the fact we haven’t had much hot dry weather.”

Har­vest will be wrapped up in the next few days.

Af­ter they have been col­lected by a spe­cial har­vest­ing ma­chine the nuts are cleaned and dried and sorted ac­cord­ing to size.

Once they have been pro­cessed and dried, hazel­nuts will keep for up to two years

Miss Mcleod said while they had more smaller nuts than usual this year, there were still plenty of things they could do with them.

This in­cludes us­ing some to make hazel­nut oil and also hazel­nut but­ter.

De­spite the chal­leng­ing sea­son in the or­chard, vis­i­tor num­bers to the cou­ple’s on­site cafe have been grow­ing.

Miss Mcleod said over­all vis­i­tor num­bers in the past 12 months had dou­bled.

Tour groups are now com­mon and Miss Mcleod said they re­ceived a lot of good feed­back from visi­tors.

Most of their nuts are cur­rently sold in Tas­ma­nia through lo­cal re­tail­ers and farm­ers’ mar­kets.

“We orig­i­nally started the shop so we could stop go­ing to the mar­kets but we’ve de­vel­oped such a great cus­tomer base at the mar­kets we don’t re­ally want to stop,” Miss Mcleod said.

“The cus­tomers at the mar­kets are so loyal and some we see ev­ery week and know their names.”

They plan to also ex­pand sales into the ex­port mar­ket.

Miss Mcleod said ini­tially they would prob­a­bly sell nuts through sub­scrip­tion to peo­ple who had vis­ited the farm from such places as Hong Kong and main­land China.

With some parts of the or­chard yet top reach full ma­tu­rity pro­duc­tion across the or­chard will keep in­creas­ing over the next few years.

How­ever, Miss Mcleod said, de­mand for fresh lo­cally grown nuts was strong and was still out­strip­ping sup­ply.

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