Credit Union Survival Tips, From an Unlikely Source

By Bo McDonald

One of my morning routines is tuning into NPR’s Morning Edition on my way into the office. Often, I hear stories that spark an idea in my mind that become a lesson to share with credit unions and other organizations. Last week was no different.

During the business segment one day, a story ran about the issues that Oregon hazelnut farmers are facing. Did you know that 99% of America’s hazelnut crops come from the Willamette Valley in Oregon? Only several years ago the hazelnut farmers were in a panic. The industry was on the verge of collapse due to a disease known as Eastern Filbert Blight. The blight first appeared in the 1980’s, leaving behind spots on the trees that would eventually kill them off branch by branch.

With little knowledge of the disease, farmers did only what they could. Many trees were cut down, leaving growers without a crop to sell and in financial straights. While farmers struggled to contain the disease and minimize the costly effects, researchers at Oregon State University started to understand more about the disease. They set out to produce trees that could become resistant to the Eastern Filbert Blight, which is the human equivalent of cancer to hazelnut trees. However, creating new breeds of trees is a long process. For over 25 years researchers have been working on developing this new breed of hazelnut tree.

At the height of the epidemic, researchers were finally able to release a new cross-pollenated breed of hazelnut tree for farmers to begin planting. It’s only been several years; however Oregon hazelnut farmers remain optimistic about the success of this new breed.

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