In 1965, Richard Birkemeier and his family planted 40 acres of Barcelona hazelnuts—known then as filberts. In 1966, the Birkemeier family planted another 40 acres, creating Meridian Orchards in Aurora, Oregon. In 1970, the Birkemeiers bought another 40 acres. Richard managed his orchards with conventional farming methods. Richard’s son, Jim Birkemeier studied biology in college. He found it fascinating. “All the organisms are helping each other. Symbiotic relationship. It’s pretty amazing,” Jim said. When Jim took over management of the family orchards in 1995, he transitioned the operation to organic growing methods. In the mid-1990s, he went to a sustainability seminar and talked about different things he’d tried: Compost-tea fertilizer; playing high-pitched bird sounds in the orchards to chase away pests; flailing limbs into the soil; grinding down stumps and planting new trees right on top of the stumps. “It was a nightmare,” Jim said. But gradually, he struck a balance with nature. In 1997, Meridian Orchards was certified organic. Taking the organic leap was difficult, but worth it—not only for Jim’s conscience and the good of the earth, but also monetarily. He was able to ...