© jake gravbrot

Hazelnut Growers of Oregon (HGO) has been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 closures. “As a business that has been deemed ‘essential’ by the state, which lumps us into the same group as cannabis dispensaries, liquor stores, and all state workers, we have had to significantly adjust how we do business,” said HGO Quality Assurance Manager Mark Clute.

The business was first hit on the foodservice side as the state mandated the shutdown of all businesses that served food inside, he said. “Then we were hit with a significant slowdown of the retail side as people began ordering over the Internet, and generally only staples, as they were trying to stretch their meager monetary reserves.”

To enable continuation of production at the processing facility while working to prevent spread of the virus, HGO shifted to two three-day shifts of 13 hours per day, instituted separation measures, and monitored temperatures. Additionally, because the company produces product for foodservice, it reduced its labor pool and cut expenses significantly.

Clute sees the impacts as continuing well into the future. “As no new retail product sets will be done this year, the retail side of the business will be the slowest to recover,” he said. “Other than that, it will be a slow ramp up to normalcy, but as we will have a record size crop this year, we will need to be prepared.”