Hazelnut Research A Hands-on Experience


October, 2017

Richard Collins – Director of Envisage


Students at Brehm Preparatory School Inc. and OPTIONS Transitions to Independence participate in a Hazelnut Research Project at Brehm’s campus in Carbondale, IL. This is part of a larger, national project lead by the National Arbor Day Foundation, to counter the devastating Eastern Filbert Blight and determine the commercial viability of producing Hazelnut crops in the Mid-Western States.

It was May 2013, that I met with Marcia and Loyd Haims, we were talking about her finishing up the academic year at South East Missouri State (SEMO) in Cape Girardeau, MO. After talking about the Speech and Language Department Loyd and I engaged in a conversation about what he was doing.

Loyd informed me that he was a Research Analyst with the National Arbor Day Foundation. He launched into a very informative conversation about the project and the health, sustainable crop, low impact to the environment and some of the economic gains it could bring to communities. He ended up with the statement that they are looking for viable locations to continue the research and look to the commercialization of the Hazelnut due to high natural omegas etc.. I then asked him if we could consider doing the project at Brehm Prep School.

Richard Collins (left) and Loyd Haims (right) examine the first crop from Brehm Preparatory School.

Photograph by Charity Finley

We spoke about the projects which we had on the Brehm campus which included an agricultural based program where we were restoring a greenhouse with our adult students at the OPTIONS program. The program was being coordinated by Jack Frazier who was an instructor. The focus of this program was to expose and train the students in the business of operating the greenhouse to raise annual flowers as a renewable cash crop from seeds to selling the flowers at an annual sale.

“We’re excited that you and the Arbor Day Foundation are willing to benefit our students educationally and potentially vocationally in this project.”

Jack Frasier – OPTIONS Transitions to Independence

Over the next few months, we planned and Loyd donated seven seedling Hazelnut trees on the Brehm Campus. There was a lot of interest from our students and Loyd was happy to talk with all of them. He monitored the progress and spoke to the milestones the trees were making and the process to get the trees to a production stage. We spoke about this phase as our pilot study to enable us to secure a grant in order to expand the program and production. The focus would be to train our students in the science, production, business, and joy of running a business with a truly hands-on process.

It is a three-year process for the trees to mature to bare fruit. We harvested our first crop over the last few weeks. It is exciting because it will now allow us to pursue a dream of creating synergy with SIU with the purpose of funding a Graduate Student to work directly with our students and Jack at making the project a sustainable entity. We hope to plant 200 trees and secure the equipment to train our students in all aspects of research and production. This project will be experienced by students over multiple years, there is no quick solution.  Delayed gratification is one skill our students will have to learn and experience through this research.