Grower Spotlight: Dan Brown of Four Ridge Orchards Inc.
Please offer some details about your farm’s history.
My great-great-grandfather came across the Oregon Trail in 1868 and he first farmed outside of Sheridan before buying a farm in McMinnville in 1870. They moved to the current farm in 1875 in Laurel, south of Hillsboro.
I am part of the fifth generation. Previously we had been a dairy; my grandfather sold the herd around 1970.
What is your role on the farm and how does your family participate (or not) in the farming operation?
I manage the day-to-day operation, manage any construction projects, run the cleaning line, and dryer during harvest. My dad still works on the farm most days unless he is away fishing or traveling with mom. My brother helps with projects and runs our harvest crew.
How long have you farmed hazelnuts (or when did you first plant)?
We first started farming hazelnuts in 1967 through a partnership with a neighbor when we bought a farm outside of Banks. We planted our first Barcelona orchard in 1978 and it is still healthy and in production today.
How many total acres of nuts (if you don’t mind sharing) and what varieties do you grow?
We farm approximately 450 acres of hazelnuts and 100 acres of walnuts. Of those about 140 acres is on our farm and the balance is leased. The varieties we grow are Barcelona, Casina, Jefferson, Yamhill, McDonald, and Wepster Family.
Anything you have done that is innovative or different?
We were an early adopter of sub-surface drip irrigation. I designed and built our drip tube plow. We designed and built a recovery heat exchanger for our nut dryer to capture some of the escaping hot exhaust air from drying the nuts to pre-heat the incoming air for the dryer. It has more than 8,000 feet of pipe to move the necessary air volume.
Any other comments you might have on what you like about farming hazelnuts, outlook on the future, or struggles you have had?
I do enjoy the challenges of growing a specialty crop with much to learn about fertility and yield optimization. We are always trying new things to try to attain higher yields. We have a positive outlook for growing hazelnuts and we firmly believe the future is bright for them.
How long have you been a member of HGO?
We joined HGO in 1984, which was the first year of the co-op. Currently, I serve on the board of directors for Wilco and I serve on the hazelnut pool committee of the board.
What are the benefits of membership or anything you would like to say about HGO?
We like the transparency that comes with being a member of HGO. Sharing in the profits is another reason we like HGO. We believe its food safety is second to none and that gives us peace of mind. We are excited by HGO’s new product developments.