Several years after the Eastern Filbert Blight all but devastated the hazelnut crops of the Eastern Fraser Valley, the trees are coming back. Growers in Chilliwack and Agassiz are now applying for the next round of Hazelnut Renewal Program funding in time for the spring planting season.
Chilliwack has been ground zero for the rejuvenation of the industry as new trees are establishing new orchards with disease-resistant varieties.
Agriculture Minister Lana Popham was in Chilliwack in the spring to tour farms and facilities, and announce the first round of funding: “It’s so wonderful to see the number of hazelnut growers in Chilliwack and Agassiz that are taking part in the Hazelnut Renewal Program to help replenish and build their orchards. Since the program launched in 2018, growers in the region have received over $91,000 in funding, planted 9,243 trees and removed 20 hectares (50 acres) of diseased tree.”
This year the ministry expanded the amount of land that farmers can get funded for planting.
Since the Hazelnut Renewal Program launched in 2018, the first two application intakes – fall 2018 and spring 2019 – resulted in 11,503 new trees planted (21 hectares, or 52 acres) and the removal of approximately 3,025 infected trees (10 hectares, or 25 acres). The results of the fall 2019 planting season are expected to be as successful and will be reported in February 2020 after field inspections are completed. New eligibility requirements that accommodate different planting densities are expected to attract more farmers into the program.
“I am pleased to say that as a result of the Hazelnut Renewal funding, we are seeing hazelnuts being planted in other parts of the province like the Okanagan, Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast and the Gulf Islands,” BC Hazelnut Growers Association president Neal teBrink said. “The program is bringing underutilized agricultural land into production for hazelnuts, which are a great source of protein and healthy oil for our diet. The program is helping build momentum in the renewal of the industry as a portion of province has the ideal climate for growing hazelnuts. We hope the program continues to be successful so the industry can reach the level needed to be sustainable.”
The B.C. government is providing the BC Hazelnut Growers Association with $300,000 over three years to help growers replace hundreds of acres of dead and diseased orchards with eastern filbert blight resistant varieties, and further expand hazelnut acreage in B.C. with new planting.
As reported on theprogress.com, the program is accepting new applications until Feb. 7, 2020.