CONTINUING COVERAGE: FLOODS OF 2016

Northern Iowa Farmer Raising Hazelnuts as a Cash Crop

Jeff Jensen working the nut sheller on this year's Hazelnut crop. (Roger Riley WHO-HD)

Jeff Jensen working the nut sheller on this year’s Hazelnut crop. (Roger Riley WHO-HD)

FENTON, Iowa- Jeff Jensen is serious about Hazelnuts. In 2005 he planted a grove of Hazelnut trees on his parents farm northeast of Fenton. Since then he has planted two more fields.

“We got involved with that because of the water quality,” said Jensen. “ We need perennial crops that we can harvest that we can have out on the landscape that provide environmental benefits as well as some sort of revenue to the farm family.”

He has learned a lot over this time about this native Iowa tree. He’s learned that Hazelnuts roasted are tasty, and Hazelnut oil can be used to substitute for more expensive olive oil.

His crop began harvesting around two weeks ago. He hires a crew to hand-pick the nuts. He then dries the nuts in a bin which was designed to dry shell corn. He then has a mechanical sheller which removes the outer shell.

“We don’t have the biggest nuts but we do have tasty nuts,” said Jensen. I like to tell folks that cause you roast the our nuts, and they’re just as good as the Oregon nuts.”

On Saturday Jensen is partnering with Practical Farmers of Iowa and Trees Forever to hold a field day on his farm, to explain the benefits of Hazelnuts. The event will run from 10-1 Saturday at their farm at 3503 40th Avenue northeast of Fenton.

People are asked to RSVP for the meal to Lauren Zastrow, at 515-232-5661 or lauren@practicalfarmers.org, by Wednesday, Sept. 7.