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Extension > Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships > RSDP Newsletter > RSDP Happenings - Focus: Through student's work, the Mary Page Fund will advance hazelnut farming opportunities in Minnesota

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RSDP Happenings - Focus: Through student's work, the Mary Page Fund will advance hazelnut farming opportunities in Minnesota

Grad student Amanda Sames will be helping advance small and medium size farm opportunities to grow hazelnuts (photo: Amanda Sames); hazelnuts grown in Minnesota (photo: Midwesthazelnut.org)

January 2015

By Dan Gilchrist

Through the generosity of the Mary J. Page Community-University Partnership Fund, Amanda Sames, a PhD student at the U's College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Sciences, will undertake a community research project on developing markets for Minnesota-grown hazelnuts. Sames will support the Fairmont-based Minnesota Hazelnut Foundation during the U of M's Spring Semester.

"There is growing interest in hazelnuts as a perennial crop that can help farmers' bottom line while also conserving top soil, contributing to cleaner lakes, rivers and streams," said Jeff Jensen, President of the Minnesota Hazelnut Foundation. "We are excited to have Amanda on-board to do critical research about the opportunities and challenges of hazelnuts as a Minnesota crop."

Sames will interview hazelnut growers and potential buyers for the crop, and will identify University of Minnesota faculty and staff who can help the burgeoning hazelnut industry. The work will complement her academic focus, which is assessing and building community capacity for managing sustainable agricultural and ecological systems. She is also an organic produce farmer with a small hazelnut patch that began to produce just 2 years ago.

The hazelnut project is modeled on an earlier successful project of the U of M's Southeast Regional Sustainable Development Partnership (SERSDP), which successfully connected the Lunds/Byerly's grocery stores with local apple growers seeking a market for imperfect ("seconds") Haralson apples to create a signature apple pie sold at the stores.

The Page Fund, named in honor of former University of Minnesota Regent and Renville County Commissioner Mary Page (1934-2013), supports University of Minnesota graduate and advanced undergraduate students working on community identified and requested research projects. Funding for students is administered through the U of M's Center for Urban and Regional Affairs and grants are advised by RSDP, which Mary Page helped found and which facilitate community-university projects in the areas of sustainable agriculture and local food, natural resources, tourism and resilient communities, and clean energy.

"Hazelnuts could be the 'next big thing' here in Minnesota for small and mid-sized family farms, with the growing popularity of products like Nutella and the environmental promise of perennial crops," said RSDP Statewide Director Kathy Draeger. "The University of Minnesota has already helped producers with hazelnut crop breeding and selection, and I believe that Amanda's work will move us by leaps and bounds to help producers find-and create-markets for their products."

RSDP connects communities with the resources of the University of Minnesota to drive sustainability in Greater Minnesota, and is part of University of Minnesota Extension.

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