Named after the two founding families, the Wilson’s and the Carberry’s, Wilberry Orchard, is a former dairy off Herd Road. Today, under the management of Joyce Carberry and Neil & Christine Wilson, and their two sons, this 74 acre farm produces hazelnuts and hay.
A quick tour highlights some of the intricacies and rewards of producing hazelnuts on Vancouver Island. Along the pathway to the orchard is a hazelnut tree nursery. Suckers from existing trees grow true to type and are pruned and rooted in soil. Once mature, they are used to replace damaged or older trees; Wilberry Orchard avoids sourcing new tree stock off-farm in order to protect the trees from the common eastern filbert blight – which to date has not affected Vancouver Island producers.
Walking towards the orchard, through a January fog, the hazelnut tree is a welcome sign of what’s to come. Their male catkins, which release pollen into the female flowers, emerge early in the New Year. The tiny red flowers, where the pollinated seeds mature into hazelnuts, are an incredible contrast to the green and brown landscape in which they grow. Given the beauty of these trees, it’s easy to see why Neil Wilson, is so passionate about this crop.
The orchard itself is planted in rows with trees spaced 18” x 18” apart. Five varieties in total are produced, with four for production and one for pollination (which are planted every seventh tree in every third row). Planted in 1995, the 25 acres of hazelnut trees now produce between 10-15 thousand pounds of nuts per year which are retailed at Thrifty Foods, Country Grocer, Red Barn, and 49th Parallel, and served at Just Jakes restaurant in Duncan.
In the fall, once the nuts are mature and begin to fall naturally from the trees, they are harvested throughout a six week period. Following harvest, they are transported the short distance to the farm’s on-site processing facility. Unlike some of the larger North American hazelnut orchards, Wilberry Orchard has chosen to process their own hazelnuts. Keeping the operation local, this gives the family more control over the quality of product they retail. The facility, whose interior is lined with a circuit of equipment, sorts out the debris from the nuts, and then washes, sizes, and dries them. In total, it takes about four to five days for each nut to complete the circuit before they are ready for the market. Yum!
Neil & Christine Wilson & Joyce Carberry
250-748-0910 or 250-746-5462