Grower Spotlight: Heesacker Farms

Steve Heesacker, Heesacker Farms in Forest Grove, OR

How long has your family-owned your farm?
My dad started farming hazelnuts in 1960. My wife, Karla, and I purchased the business in 2003. We are second-generation hazelnut farmers.

How long has your family-owned and operated the receiving station?
Since 1994. I helped Dad build our original cleaning and drying operations that began in 1984; we began receiving for HGO in 1994, and upgraded and expanded our drying capacities in 2015.

What are the unique challenges of operating the receiving station?
Finding skilled workers who show up to work on a consistent basis.

What is your farming history?
My father started planting hazelnuts in 1970, but he had been farming them since 1967. I started farming with him full time in 1980. I purchased my first orchard in 1981 of 14 acres. In 2003 my wife and I purchased the farm from my father, who is semi-retired.

How many total acres of nuts do you grow?
We own 126 acres and we rent 358 acres. We custom harvest another 68 acres.

Is there anything you have done that is innovative or differently?
Double density plantings began in 1970. We use pick-up trucks for spraying instead of tractors and we built a self-propelled air blast sprayer. The biomass furnace installed in our dryer uses hazelnut shells and sticks as fuel instead of propane; saving thousands.

What is your outlook for the future?
We anticipate higher returns to growers over any other packers because of value-added and because of SQF3 designation.

How long have you been a member of HGO and what are the benefits?
We’re a founding grower since 1984 and board member 20 years. Higher returns to the growers over the years.