18 Oct 2019

Nuts about Hazels

From Country Life, 9:25 pm on 18 October 2019
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Photo: RNZ / Cosmo Kentish-Barnes

Caroline and Mark Eastmond run Hazelnut Nurseries on the hills near Waiau in North Canterbury.

Initial planting began in 1993 and now they have about 1,300 established trees producing nuts for the local market.

Ninety percent of the trees in the Eastman's orchard are Whiteheart – a hazelnut cultivar developed by Hamish Deans.

New Zealand is the only place in the world where Whiteheart hazelnuts are grown commercially, according to Mark. The rest of the trees are pollinators.

Mark designed and made the machinery he uses for processing the small round nuts in his workshop.

"There was nothing around the world that did what I created," he says proudly.

"I came up with a process that you literally tip nuts in at one end and the machine cleans, sizes, cracks, separates and they come out on a conveyer belt."

Mark has also built a unique harvesting machine that quickly sucks the nuts up off the ground.

The couple also grows hazelnut trees for commercial orchard plantings and have supplied trees and support to many new growers throughout the country over the past 12 years.

Business-wise, Caroline believes they've cracked the nut.

"The orchard has been a very valuable part of our property and, as a whole, this property has paid for itself, even on 20 acres, many times over and it continues to pay its way," she says.

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Photo: Supplied