Harvesting Filberts (Hazelnuts)

Filbert (Hazelnut) Orchard in Yamhill County, OR

Filbert (Hazelnut) Orchard in Yamhill County, OR

The Patton Place had 5 filbert or hazelnut orchards, one of which was 99 acres, the largest in the world at that time.  Two of the five orchards were started by Boyd.  This made for hard work and great responsibility for all members of the family.  The Patton orchards were regularly disked with a cultivator attached to the tractor.  The cultivator had big wheels (or disks) that would turn over the top 5-6 inches of dirt as it was dragged between the trees.  Then the orchard was harrowed to break up the dirt clods that occurred with cultivating.  And lastly, it was rolled in order to pack down the soil.  This process was repeated several times a year to keep the weeds and grass down.  In the Fall, in order to get the filbert orchards ready for harvesting, Boyd with the help of his boys, would disk several times, harrow to level it out, and then roll it over and over until it looked almost like a floor.  Then they prayed and hoped for rain to settle the dust and pack the soil down.

This process was done originally because the nuts, leaves, and husks were raked by hand.  Three to four hundred people called fruit tramps (because they would follow the harvest year after year) would be employed during the nut harvest to rake, pick up, and rub the nuts on grated tables to separate them from the leaves and husks.  This process would begin in early October, generally after hunting season, and could last until Thanksgiving time, depending on the weather.  Filberts are not shaken out of the trees, they are allowed to fall naturally.

As harvesting methods changed, the Mave Company in Newberg came to rely on Boyd Fergus for his practical knowledge and expertise.  As a result, the Patton Place became a test sight for new harvesting methods the Mave Company developed.  The first change came with the automation of the raking system.  A mechanical rake was developed by the Mave Company.  It had teeth and looked like a windblower with a hopper on the front (to keep the nuts from flying everywhere).  The workers would start raking in the middle of the orchard between the rows of trees.  With the mechanical rake they would sweep a path about 6 feet wide.  Then the only hand raking needed was at the base of the trees.  The next development was to reverse the raking process.  The workers began blowing the nuts from around the tree trunks and out into the middle of the orchard where they could be picked up.


Then Mave Company began building machinery to replace the grated tables on which the nuts were hand-rubbed to separate them from the leaves and husks.  The machine was approximately 25 feet long with two engines, and was pulled through the orchard by a tractor.  The harvesters would dump what they had raked (nuts, leaves, and husks) into the machine which then sorted them.  The sorting process was accomplished by chained conveyor belts that let forced air through in order to blow the husks and leaves away.  What was left would then go into a squirrel cage about 3 feet around and 7 feet long; this helped get rid of the extra dirt clods and sticks.  Then, whatever was left came onto another conveyer belt which dumped the nubs out the back of the machine.  Aunt Vaud and Aunt Fern would then pick out any additional rocks and refuse before the nuts were sacked.  The bagged nuts were then hauled to a dryer.

Boyd Fergus and the Patton Place played a big part in the testing and development process for filbert harvesting and as a result simplified it for future farmers.  The last year Boyd and Cleo worked for Mr. Patton, the harvesting process required only 30 workers because the ground did not have to be disked anymore.  The whole process was automated.

2 thoughts on “Harvesting Filberts (Hazelnuts)

  1. Hello. I am a nephew to Elmer Blomberg who was one of the owners of the Mave Co in Newberg OR.
    One of the machines is sitting in the Antique Powerland in Brooks OR. I have been trying for the past couple of years to gather information about the company for Powerland.
    If you have anything that you would be willing to pass along I would appreciate it.
    Alan Strong

  2. I can name all but one of those who participated in the last harvest involving Boyd Fergus. The cleaning operation (nut house) was supervised by Fred Patton and his friend. The trailers were dumped by Melvin Werner, commonly known as “The Miner.” Trailer “shagging” was done by George Elverud. Raking was done by Boyd Fergus, John Funk & Kenneth “Buck” Rogers. I (Fergie Fergus) harvested all the nuts with a Flory Harvester. The entire operation that year took four days, due to unusually dry conditions, and involved eight workers in all.

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