Northland College has joined a public-private partnership designed to accelerate the development of hazelnuts as an agricultural product found in wild form throughout the region.
The College, American Hazelnut Company, Bayfield Foods Cooperative, the UW-Extension Service, and the University of Wisconsin’s Biological Systems Engineering department, together are undertaking a two-year program to develop cost-efficient systems for the processing of hazelnuts and heart-healthy products made from them.
Jason Fischbach a woody food crop specialist for the UW-Extension Service is coordinating the development work in the Northland College kitchen, working with processing devices developed by the UW Biological Systems Engineering faculty and staff at UW-Madison.
Fischbach experimented with the first batch of hazelnuts last week at the Hulings Rice Food Center at Northland College.
The College is hulling, shelling, and cleaning the hazelnuts. The American Hazelnut Company, located in Gays Mills, Wisconsin, will do the final processing, transforming hazelnuts into gluten-free nuts, oil, and flour.
Hybrid hazelnuts, developed from the sturdy rootstock of bushes that have thrived in the Upper Midwest for generations, have been winning increasing favor among farmers and orchardists for their potential to become an important new agricultural product.
Terms of the multi-partner collaboration were negotiated by Northland College President Michael Miller, who called it “a perfect fit” for the college’s mission to combine liberal arts disciplines and the study of the relevant environment and sustainable agri-business systems.
“Hazelnuts are an important food crop in more than a dozen countries around the world,” said Miller. “We at Northland want to help develop a competitive hazelnut industry here in the upper Midwest.”