Upper Midwest Hazelnut Initiative

hazelnutThe Upper Midwest Hazelnut Development Initiative (UMHDI) was launched in 2007 to support the growth and commercialization of the hazelnut industry in the Upper Midwest through grower support, targeted research, and technology development. There are more than 130 hazelnut growers in the region, managing 67,000+bushes on 140 acres. To bring this endeavor to scale,  the collaborating farmers and  researchers are invested in a series of short and long‐term projects. With funding from many diverse sources,  the researchers have made significant progress, and are developing a plan of work through 2023.

For a quick overview of hazelnuts – history, cultivation and use, check out our story map (scroll from bottom to top to read the story).

The Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems at the University of WI-Madison is sponsoring workshops in the Driftless region  from 2012-2016 for growers and others in the food supply chain to share their experiences in bringing this product to market.

The UPHDI also sponsors regular winter meetings and summer field days. Go to the project web site for more information on events and research, including information on how to do on-farm research on hazelnuts.

For a quick overview of the project, check out this video:

UW-CIAS researched five case studies on nut grower-built businesses, as part of its work with the Initative. The cases are available for download and a report will be printed for distribution at the NNGA 2015 conference. Brady Williams, a graduate student with the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Agroecology Program,  researched and wrote these cases and discusses lessons learned in a powerpoint: Brady – Value-Added Lessons (MHG Conference 3.2.13)

This project is part of the MidAmerica Agroforestry Working Group.  It is also affiliated with Green Lands Blue Waters. The academic research team and farmer partners hail from three states:


  • Mark Shepard, farmer, New Forest Enterprises, Viola, WI
  • Jason Fischbach, UW‐Extension-Bayfield County: American hazelnut screening, Wisconsin Germplasm and Demonstration trials, outreach and education
  • Mike Demchik, Professor of Forestry, UW‐Steven’s Point: American hazelnut breeding, propagation, genetic diversity analysis
  • Brent McCown, Professor of Horticulture Emeritus, UW‐Madison: Propagation, American hazelnut breeding
  • Eric Zeldin, Research Scientist, UW‐Madison: Propagation
  • Jim Lane, Professor of Chemistry, UW‐Superior: Hazelnut oil
  • Michael Bell, Professor of Community and Environmental Sociology, UW-Madison: Community development
  • Michelle Miller, Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, UW-Madison; Human organization


  • Norm Erickson, farmer, Rochester, MN
  • Don Wyse, Professor of Agronomy, UMN: Hybrid hazelnut breeding, agronomics, industry development
  • Lois Braun, Post‐Doctoral Research Associate, UMN: Hybrid hazelnut breeding, propagation, agronomics


  • Jeff Jensen, farmer, Fenton, IA
  • Anthony Kern, Professor of Biology and Chemistry, Morningside College: Genetic diversity analysis, EFB screening

One thought on “Upper Midwest Hazelnut Initiative

  1. April Nugent

    My name is April Nugent and I’m a college student studying sustainable agriculture and livestock management. I’m currently conducting a nutritional study on pigs where I’ll be comparing raising breeding sows on pasture v.s. a woodlot.I’m currently looking for a lab capable of testing the nutritional content of chestnuts/walnuts and acorns. I was pointed in your direction by someone who thought you could help. If so please email me at ann15@hampshire.edu .

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