The province is shelling out another $100,000 for the four-year-old hazelnut renewal program.
The funding will support two rounds of funding, one this spring with an application deadline of March 28 and another this fall that opens August 9.
“We are beginning to see positive results of the program as hazelnut production has almost tripled since it launched and that’s very encouraging for growers in the province,” said provincial agriculture minister Lana Popham in a statement announcing the program.
The funding will support new plantings as well as help growers replace dead and diseased orchards with varieties resistant to Eastern Filbert Blight, a disease first identified in BC in 2001. Over the course of the following decade, EFB devastated the province’s hazelnut orchards.
Since 2018, the province has pledged $500,000 in support of the sector’s recovery. The renewal program has helped re-establish former growers as well as attracted new entrants. It has supported plantings on more than 247 acres and the removal of infected trees from approximately 52 acres. Production now totals 73,000 pounds, up from 25,000 pounds in 2017.
Thom O’Dell, who operates Nature Tech Nursery Ltd. of Courtenay with partner Haley Argen would like to see a long-term funding model for the replant program. While recognizing that government faces several competing demands for funding, O’Dell believes hazelnuts offer both a high-value food and environmental benefits.
“This will benefit people getting ready to plant trees on order for spring and will encourage planning for new plantings in the fall,” says O’Dell. “[But] we should remember that it doesn’t just benefit people who want to grow hazelnuts. This very resilient crop sequesters carbon while producing highly nutritious food, helping to mitigate and adapt to climate change.”