Tom Wahl is an experienced grafter. He enjoys helping others learn this skill. He will be teaching the modified-mega-chip-bud-inlay-bark graph (also known as the double flap mega chip graft) on Saturday, May 5th at Nahant Marsh Nature Center. To register or for more details go to Nahant Marsh Events Ca lander.
The Sustainable Iowa Land Trust announces it is reopening applications for sustainable food farmers from every background for SILT’s premier farm in Northeast Iowa – 70 acres of pasture, organic grain and timber with an historic, well-maintained 4-bedroom farmhouse with solar and geothermal and multiple outbuildings. The successful applicant has the opportunity to purchase the farm equipment interest-free over time. This opportunity, first offered in 2017, is being presented again due to the short window available for the first round of applications.
SILT offers qualified candidates a 3-year lease on the buildings and land which will result in an offer to the successful farmer of a 20-year inheritable ground lease (to be extended as allowed by Iowa law so long as the farmer remains in compliance) and option to purchase the home and barns. No down payment is required, and farmers will gain equity in the infrastructure if they so choose. The current tenant is on a one-year lease, understands that applications are open and has been invited to apply as well.
SILT’s costs include the Payment, Interest, Taxes and Insurance on this property equaling $13,446 per year. SILT administrative charge of 2 percent brings the base cost to $13,800. SILT is offering discounted 1st year rent of $12,800 with second and third year at $13,800. Rental rate is negotiable with the right applicant. Be sure to discuss with a SILT representative.
Potential sources of income include livestock, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seed, AirBnB, agri-tourism, workshops and more. The farm is conveniently located less than 10 minutes from Decorah.
SILT farmers are eventually third-party certified as organic, naturally grown, Food Alliance, biodynamic and for livestock, Animal Welfare approved.
In Iowa, fruit and nut bearing trees are charged sales tax if the fruit and or nuts from that tree or bush will never be sold. If the purchaser plans to sell the fruit or nuts at any time in the life of the plant, no sales tax will be charged. It all reflects on if this plant is being purchased for a business or personal use.
In the past, we at Red Fern Farm have given buyers the option to purchase plants solely for personal use. This November we are changing that policy. We will only sell to people who plan to sell fruit or nuts from their tree or bushes at some time. This will simplify our website and other bookkeeping practices.
We will not have a minimum order, but we make it clear that you must plan to sell a product from these plants at some time. We will be updating our website slowly through the end of the year to reflect this change.
You-Pick at Red Fern Farm is by reservation only. You can call a day ahead to see if there is an opening or schedule your harvest day weeks in advance. We have lots of openings on weekdays, but weekend fill up quickly.
What to Expect: You can usually drive up and park close to the spot you will be harvesting. We have clean latrines, hand washing stations and picnic tables at each parking area. This is a safe area for children, but no dogs or cats are allowed (food security issues).
The grass will be mowed, but not as fine as a lawn. Be sure to wear sturdy shoes, prickly chestnut burs are scattered on the ground. Our orchards are in a rural setting, close to “wild” timber. Bring bug repellant.
Aronia Berries: (still available as of 9/29/18) Aronia berries are available free for you-pick. They will hit the peak of ripeness during early September. We have over 2 acres to choose from, with some shade from young chestnut and heartnut trees. Call for more information.
Hazels: (Finished for 2018) Hazels are available at $1.00/pound for un-husked clusters for you-pick. The season for hazels starts in late August and continues to mid-September. Hazels can be picked from the bushes or from the ground underneath. Bring bags, buckets or boxes to collect into. It can take 30 minutes for one adult to pick clean one 10 foot tall bush and gather about 1-3 gallons of hazel clusters.
Pawpaws: Our pawpaw season is now past it’s peak. There are still pawpaws available on the trees as of 9/29/17, but the season will be winding down soon. Pawpaws are $3.00/pound when you pick them, $5.00/pound when we pick them. Bring buckets, boxes or crates. Ripe pawpaws are very soft and should not be stacked no more than 2 deep. Weekends are very popular, so call early to reserve a time slot. Tuesday – Thursday is an excellent time to have the pawpaw patch to yourself. It only takes about 15 minutes to get 5 – 10 pounds of pawpaws. Late afternoon is the best time to pick, but ripe pawpaws will be available all day. Recipes are available. There is no minimum or maximum for the amount of pawpaws you pick. We do ask you only pick what you plan to take home.
We have many grafted trees. If you want to see what grafted variety you like the flavor of best, bring a black sharpie with you. You can write on the outside of the pawpaw what the variety it is. When you eat it later, you can compare it with other varieties
American Persimmon: Persimmons are available are still going strong as of 9/29/17 at $2.00/pound when you pick them, $3.00/pound when we pick them. The season starts in early September and continues to mid-October. Persimmons are very soft when ripe. They should not be piled deeply in your gathering container. Bring bags, buckets or boxes to collect into.
They can be gathered from the ground or picked from the tree. Slightly under ripe persimmons are very astringent. They will ripen at room temperature if picked early. We have nets spread under grafted persimmons in front of our house. You are welcomed to gather from the nets, the trees or anywhere in our groves.
Heartnuts: Heartnuts are available at $2.00/pound for un-husked clusters or $4/pound without husks (they husk very easily) for you-pick. The season for heartnuts starts in early September and continues to mid-October. The nuts are gathered from the ground under the trees.
Cornelian Cherries: (Finished for 2018) Cornelian Cherries are available at $1.00/pound for you-pick. The season has been mid-August to mid-September. We recommend bringing a gathering cloth to spread under the bushes. The ripe berries are soft and sweet. Under ripe they are firmer and very tart. They will continue to ripen after picking. We have none available already picked (the family eats them up too fast).
Spicebush: Spicebush berries are available for $8.00/pound or 50¢/ounce for you-pick. The season runs from early September to mid October. (Tom reported ripe, red berries on 9/7/17.) You only need a few ounces of these potent berries to add to a variety of recipes. Kathy uses them in pawpaw jam and persimmon margaritas.
Chestnuts: We offer you-pick under our chestnut trees. The season often runs mid-September to mid-October. As of 9/29/17 the 2017 season is starting to wind down, and we have discounted our you-pick prices as a result. We provide tools and buckets for harvest and designate an area all your own to pick for a day. Be sure to wear sturdy shoes, prickly chestnut burs are scattered on the ground. The best time of day to gather chestnuts is mid to late afternoon. Plan on coming after lunch and harvest up till sunset.
We have a very long waiting list of people who want to gather chestnuts on weekends. If you are new to our You-Pick, your name goes to the bottom of the list. If you can only come on a weekend, it may be years before you get a chance to gather chestnuts. If you can come on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday you have a much better chance of getting to gather chestnuts. We have started scheduling people to come pick chestnuts for 2017. Call or email us to get on our list. We can schedule you now for weekdays or call you when other dates open up.
2017 Chestnut You-Pick Prices:
If you want to keep all the nuts you pay $
2.50 $2.25/pound for everything you picked up.
We discount that price by 25 cents if you come on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. On these days the price is
$2.25 $2,00/pound. (on 9/29/17 we discounted our prices by 25¢ )
If you don’t want all the nuts, we will pay you 50¢ for each pound of chestnuts you gather and don’t take home.
Be sure to bring water and snacks. It takes about one hour for one adult to gather 25 pounds of nuts.
Maps and directions are available or call if you need help finding us.
We are outside a lot this time of year. Be ready to leave a message.
Red Fern Farm and the Sustainable Iowa Land Trust will be hosting a showcase at Red Fern Farm on Wednesday, September 20 from 10:00 – 2:00. The showcase will include a tour of Red Fern Farm’s chestnut and pawpaw groves, lunch (including venison, pawpaw bars, and persimmon brownies), and information about protecting farm land with SILT. A lawyer and appraiser will be available to answer your questions about land easements and other protection options.
Space is limited, pre-register by Friday, September 15th by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or call (515)278-0550 to reserve your spot. This event is free and open to the public.
All the trees and shrubs have now broken dormancy at Red Fern Farm. We are shipping out the last orders this morning and will not be shipping more orders after today. You can place shipping orders for Spring of 2018. – Kathy
Tom Wahl spoke on site selection and care of chestnut trees at the Chestnut conference in Letts, Iowa on February 11, 2017. The conference was video taped. This video is 1 hour and 20 minute long. It covers hardiness zones, drainage needs, Ph requirements and more for chestnut trees. Information from the conference is available.
You can watch the vidoe and others from the chestnut conferce on you tube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7aV_U0k-lmg
Lisa Louck, Iowa DNR, talked on possible cost share options for Iowans at the Chestnut Conference in Lett, Iowa on February 11, 2017.
Heartnut (Juglans ailantifolia var. cordiformis) is a type of walnut with a heart-shaped nut. All heartnuts are of the Japanese walnut species, or hybrids there of. The heartnut is a genetic “sport” or mutation of the normal, wild type nut of Japanese walnut.
Normal Japanese walnuts are cylindrical, elongated, rough or spiny, very thick-shelled and difficult to crack. In contrast, the heartnut is (more or less) Valentine-heart shaped and somewhat flattened. The heartnut is the easiest of all walnuts to husk and to crack. When moderate pressure is applied across the “shoulders” of the heart, the nut “pops” in two along the suture line, yielding two valentine-heart shaped halves. In cultivars with only “fair” to “good” cracking quality, the kernel breaks in half and comes out in two pieces. In the best cultivars, the kernel falls free from the shell in a single, unbroken piece – the only walnut in the world with this ability. On top of that, the heartnut is also the sweetest and mildest tasting of all the walnuts, beating out the so-called “English” walnut in taste tests every time. As if that weren’t enough, the heartnut has an incredible ability to store at room temperature.
The flavor actually develops in storage and peaks between five and eight years. Beyond 10 years at room temperature, heartnuts may become slightly stale, but not enough to keep them from being enjoyable.
The heartnut tree itself is incredibly fast growing. With adequate moisture and protection from weed competition they can put on six to eight feet of height growth per year in Iowa. The twigs are often as big around as broom handles. Leaves are compound and can be two to three feet long, with a very “tropical” look. Though the trees can become quite large, they tend to be low and spreading, like a live-oak. An old tree with a three foot diameter trunk and a 100 foot spread may be only 20 feet to 30 feet tall.
Heartnuts prefer moist, fertile, well-drained soil, though they will tolerate somewhat poorly drained soil better than most fruit and nut trees. They are best adapted to zones 5 and 6, with some of the hybrids suited through zone 4.
Superior heartnut cultivars can be grafted onto black walnut rootstock. The resulting tree can be twice as productive as seedling heartnuts or heartnuts grafted onto other heartnut rootstocks. Heartnuts are among the most challenging trees to graft, requiring great skill for success. For this reason, grafted heartnuts are very difficult to find in the nursery trade. More common are heartnut seedlings. The problem with seedlings is that they may grow into trees that bear nuts with no resemblance to those of their parents. Many heartnut seedlings “revert back to wild-type” – that is, their nuts will resemble the thick-shelled hard –to-crack wild Japanese walnuts. Some heartnut parent trees produce as much as 70% of offspring that grow into wild-type trees. On the other hand, the best heartnut parents will produce up to 90% heartnut offspring,
especially if they are pollenized by other good heartnut parents. If you are planting heartnut seedlings, you should plant about twice as many as the number of trees you want to end up with – that way, you can grow them up to bearing size, select the ones with the best nuts, and cull the poor ones.
Heartnuts are highly susceptible to walnut bunch disease. The disease is caused by a phytoplasma organism, and it’s transferred from tree to tree by leaf-hoppers. The disease causes “witches broom” type growth on the tree, and is frequently fatal. The good news is that the disease is apparently strongly linked to zinc deficiency in the soil. A foliar feed of the naturally occurring mineral zinc sulfate, applied in the spring, will usually clear up the disease in a single growing season. Zinc sulfate is applied to the soil around the drip line of the tree to prevent the disease from coming back.
Heartnuts have some great potential as a commercial tree. The unique shape of the nut alone makes them very attractive to consumers who eagerly pay $6 to $7 per pound for them. Add to this their rapid growth, heavy bearing, ease of husking and cracking, and great taste, and you have a tree that is well worth growing as a backyard tree or for a serious commercial venture. – Tom Wahl
Handouts from the Commercial Chestnut Growing Conference held on February 11, 2017 at Letts, Iowa
Woodland Suitability Table (Because of multiple errors, Tom Wahl no longer recommend using the Woodland Suitability Table)
All videos of the presentation are availabe at Red Fern Farm’s You Tube Channel
Details on the past conference:
Tom Wahl and Roger Smith are working together to provide a program on growing chestnuts commercially in the Midwest. It will be held at the Letts Community Room in Letts, Iowa on February 11 from 9:30 am to 3:00 pm. Topics to be covered will include markets, cultural practices and economics. The outstanding potential for economic return of chestnuts will be stressed.
Chestnuts are a valuable nut crop that can be grown in a low-input, chemical free agroforestry system that includes permanent ground cover. Depending on soil types, they can be an excellent crop for land designated as highly erodible. Seedling chestnut trees of superior genetics can begin bearing nuts after 3 – 4 years on a good site and with good management. At 12 – 15 years they can produce 3,000 or more pounds per acre. In Iowa, chestnuts wholesale for an average of $2.60/pound.
The profit potential of chestnuts has encouraged the planting of chestnut groves throughout much of Iowa. Roger Smith, manager and owner of Prairie Grove Chestnut Growers, buys and sells chestnuts. In 2016 he sorted, bagged and sold over 49,000 pounds of chestnuts grown in Iowa, Missouri and Illinois. He sees no end to the market potential of chestnuts and plans to plant an additional 25 acres of chestnut trees to his existing chestnut groves.
Speakers will include Roger Smith, Tom Wahl of Red Fern Farm, Drew Delang of the Natural Resource Conservation Service and Mike Gold of the Center for Agroforestry – University of Missouri. Preregistration is required. The registration of $20 includes lunch, snacks and a 26 page primer on growing Chestnuts in Iowa. Registration is available on line at Eventbee.com . For more information or other registration options call Kathy Dice at 319/729-5905. This program is being sponsored by Practical Farmers of Iowa, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Louisa County, Red Fern Farm and Prairie Grove Chestnut Growers.