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Zack Boeckman takes over the Newberg company just before busy harvest season begins

SUSAN BRANNON - Zach Boeckman has taken over the reins of Chehalem Valley Orchard Equipment in Newberg.

Ownership of Chehalem Valley Orchard Equipment recently changed hands, but remained within the family as Zack Boeckman's wife's father and brother started the business in the mid-1990s.

"It was started as a hazelnut nursey where my wife's grandpa grew and planted the trees," Boeckman said. "Once the orchards were planted, the boys took over as they got older and they started the equipment business years later and diversified a little bit. … They are still running their nursery and stuff."

After four years of working in the company and learning the strings of running the business, the family thought that it was time to hand over the reins to Boeckman.

"The Baby Boomers are getting into that age where their bodies just can't work anymore," he said. "I see that more and more going on; they are hitting their mid- to late-60s, so they've got to give up their business."

The company focuses on the equipment needed for hazelnut orchards. They sell two brands of tower equipment to help the farmer prune the limbs either dead or infected with Eastern Filbert Blight, while helping keep the tree alive and produce each year.

"The industry has probably doubled in size in six years, it's been a big boom," Boeckman said. "Of course that is not why I was getting into it, (it was to) help my father-in-law. Well, this is what I know."

The company is the primary dealer of Flory harvesters in Oregon as well. The equipment picks the product from the ground and feeds it into a tote for processing after a fan blows away the debris.

"The farmer gets charged for cleanout and disappearance weight: the moisture, dirt and debris when it goes through the cleaning equipment after it has been washed," Boeckman said. "It is what is leftover. So the idea is to separate the debris from the product to go right into the boxes and pay a less cleanout fee."

He added that he is quickly adapting to the position of owner amid the industry's busiest time of the year.

"Harvest season is early this year we are looking at September sometime this year," Boeckman said. "We've had a dry early spring and a dry summer. There hasn't been a ton of stress other than heat on the trees, the trees respond different to different stress, it might hold on to its nuts and other times it tells it to release it. It's fun to watch."

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