Tag Archives: featured

Scionwood available, BrIEfly

Freshly harvested and labeled persimmon scionwood.

We have opened up our website for orders of scionwood. Right now you can order genetic material to graft chestnuts, heartnuts, black walnuts, pawpaws, American persimmons, Asian and European pears, apples, plums, mulberry and new this year…Cornelian cherries. check it out at on our scionwood for sale page.

We offer high quality scion wood at $5/linear foot. Quantities of some varieties are limited and may be sold out already. Shipping is $16 to cover handling cost as well as postage. The only exception is heartnut. Some heartnut is so thick we need to use very large shipping boxes. We will alert you if there are extra shipping charges.

Deadline for ordering Apple and Pear scionwood is February 15. All other scionwood orders will be due March 1st. Scionwood will be shipped in February or March, depending on what you order. We do cut the scionwood into 6 inch leangths to facilitate shipping.

We now have videos available to help you with your grafting.

Grafting on Cornelian cherry using the barn door graft.

Tom’s favorite grafting method, Barn Door (Mega-Chip), is highlighted in the paper Barn Door Graft .  A more complete write up of grafting techniques is available in the paper Practical Grafting  .

Videos: You can watch Tom Wahl  gathering scion wood; demonstrating the barn door graft; and caring for grafts in the videos below.  The Savanna Institute hosted a one-hour Facebook/Zoom meeting with Tom using these videos. The recording of that presentation with the Q & A is below.

Gathering Scionwood

Barn door graft

Graft care

Facebook presentation 

Remember, place your order soon. We have to stop taking orders in March. – Kathy

Tree Seedlings Available for 2021

Peach chestnut seedlings, May 2020

We now have a great line up of trees available to reserve or order.

The May freezes the Spring of 2020 has affected what we have available to grow 2021. We will not be able to offer many of our own selections this year (Red Fern Super, QingSu, Shotgun). For the same reason we will not have heartnuts to sell later this year.   We do have seedlings of  some of the very best cultivars available. Although “open pollinated”, their most likely pollinizers are other good Chinese cultivars. This greatly increases the likelihood that the seedlings will be as good or even better than their parents. We fully expect that many new, superior cultivars will result form these seedlings.

Chestnut Peach seedlings mid-July, 2019.

We also have pawpaw and persimmon seedlings available to reserve. Availability of each varieties changes through the summer as people place orders and we pot up more or less trees than we predicted. If we are sold out of a variety you want, contact us to be put on a waiting list for that tree. Let us know how we can help you out. – Kathy

You-Pick at Red Fern Farm 2020

You-pick at Red Fern Farm is open this year and is one of the safest ways to bring fresh, healthy food to your household. All our nuts and fruits are continuously sanitized by sunlight. You will most likely be the only human who touches the produce you take home. Masks are not needed while harvesting in our groves, but are appreciated during your weigh-out in our Red Shed. Our you-pick is still by reservation only. This helps to guarantee lots of social distancing while you harvest. 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 weekends fill up quickly. We are also planning on making a video about you-pick at Red Fern Farm.

Red Shed - Customer checkout shed
Our Red Shed – where we weigh out customers’ harvests.

We are continuing the $15 minimum. This $15, usually paid when you first arrive, covers the time it takes us to show you around the groves, train you on what and how to harvest and taste samples of fruit and nuts. After paying the $15, you don’t have to buy anything at our farm. If you do make a purchase, the first $15 is already paid for. How cool is that? The $15 is per group. As an added bonus we will be utilizing our new “Red Shed” to weigh you out at the end of your harvest. No need to drive back to our house for your weigh out.

You-pick at Red Fern Farm is a fun family outing.

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 repellent. Your children are welcome to observe and catch  the frogs, insects, spiders and snakes they encounter.  Please ask your children to be gentle and release all creatures before you leave the groves.

Aronia Berries:  The Aronia bushes had a light crop this year. There are a few dried berries available free for you-pick (see note on $15 visitation minimum above) but almost all juicy berries are gone. We hit the peak of ripeness during early September. We only have a few bushes still bearing fruit. They are located in the shade of chestnut and heartnut trees. Call for more information.

Handful of hazels collected at Red Fern Farm on August 24, 2019.

Hazels:  As of September 20, 2020 the season is over for our hazels. We had a great response and the bushes have been picked clean. They were available at $1.00/pound for un-husked  clusters or $2.00/pound husked nuts for you-pick. The season for hazels usually 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. One gallon of un-husked nuts (an ice cream bucket full) will yield about one pound of husked nuts. If you are interested in saving hazels for seed nuts, we have free information available – just ask. Hazels qualify for the pick-all-you-want for the $15 entrance fee mentioned above.

Cornelian Cherries: As of 10/3/20 the Cornelian Cherry season is over. Cornelian Cherries were available at $2.00/pound for you-pick. The season usually runs from August to late 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).

Pawpaws:  The pawpaws have been happy this year and there is a bumper crop. The cooler weather of late July and early August did delay the ripening. For 2020, the season started 9/19/20.

Drew Latta shows off a harvested pawpaw.
Drew Latta shows off part of his pawpaw harvest in 2019.

September to late October. 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 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 (after 1:00 pm). 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.

A member of Emily Slayton’s group harvests some American persimmons.

American Persimmon: Persimmons are available, but took a hit from the late, May frosts. We have a smaller crop, but still plenty for our customers at $2.00/pound when you pick them, $3.00/pound when we pick them. The 2020 season is off to a slow start but should pick up by early 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. Only orange persimmons will continue to ripen off the tree.

Heartnuts: Heartnuts took a hard, hard hit from the late, May frosts. We see no nuts at all on the trees this year. 

Asian Pears: The Asian pears have set a plentiful crop of Korean Giants. They did over-produced and many have brown rot. The Korean Giants will ripen in late October. Feel free to taste sample any fallen fruit or fruit damaged by brown rot to find a tree whose flavor you enjoy. They are available at $2.00/pound when you pick them, $3.00/pound when we pick.

Spicebush: Our spicebushes froze to the ground the winter of 2018 – 2019. They are still recovering and have no berries this year.

Chestnut burs high in tree
For the 2020 harvest, burs are developing only 20 feet or higher in the chestnut trees.

Chestnuts: Limited You-Pick in 2020 –   What happened? Weather again. We had two late freezes in May. The chestnut trees were putting on fresh leaf growth from the first late freeze when they got hit by a second freeze. Fortunately the freezing temperatures were low to the ground. Any branch above 20 feet was not hurt by the second freeze. We think some burs are developing high in the trees, but we can not see them. (and Kathy can not take photos of the burs). As of August 13, we are not sure what we will have for chestnut harvest.

burs circled in red
The chestnut burs are hard to see as of August 21, 2020.

2020Chestnut You-Pick Prices:
If you manage to find any chestnuts, you pay $3.00/pound for everything you picked up. We discount that price by 25¢ if you come on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. On these days the price is $2.75. 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.

Pawpaw and Persimmon Videos

The Native Fruit Association (NFA) was formed to promote and share knowledge about native fruits of the Midwest that have commercial possibilities. The group has received grants from Iowa Department of Land Stewardship to create demonstration plots and to create informative videos and a website. Red Fern Farm has been involved with NFA since its beginning.

We are proud to present 6 of the videos.

Pawpaw cluster hanging from a tree.
Pawpaw cluster hanging from a tree.

Introduction to Pawpaws

Growing and Marketing Pawpaws

Handling and Cooking Pawpaws

Introduction to American Persimmons

Growing and Marketing Persimmons

Handling and Cooking Persimmons

Planting Chestnuts for Deer?

Numerous articles and advertisements in outdoor and hunting magazines are promoting the idea of planting chestnuts for wildlife. It is true that chestnuts bear heavy crops of nuts that are very attractive to a wide variety of animals. On the other hand, some of the claims aimed at deer hunters are wild exaggerations, or downright lies. Chestnuts do not make good trees for attracting deer during most deer hunting seasons. Chestnuts tend to ripen very early for a nut crop. They begin as early as late August in the Deep South and even in the North they are usually all finished up by the middle of October, well before most deer seasons. Chestnuts are very attractive to deer, but only for about one month out of the year. After that, the deer will be off looking for other food. A few late-ripening chestnuts are available as grafted trees, and while these may be useful to both deer and deer hunters in the Deep South, such trees are utterly useless in the North. Chestnuts ripen and fall early for a reason – the nuts are absolutely ruined by freezing temperatures. Once the temperature of the nut falls to 24 F, the embryo is killed. When the nut thaws, it begins to decay. At that point, even the squirrels won’t eat it. How often does your deer season start before the first hard freeze in the fall?  
The American Persimmon is actually a much better choice for attracting deer to a property and then holding them there through the hunting season. Persimmon fruit is just as attractive to deer as chestnuts are – maybe even more so. While some persimmons ripen and drop their fruit at the same time as chestnuts, others produce a massive crop of fruit that begins dropping from the tree in November and continues all winter, right up until early spring. Freezing temperatures do not damage the fruit, and wildlife will continue to consume it all winter long. Deer are known to bed down near persimmon trees and listen for the sound of falling fruit. Hunters report deer often come running from several directions at the sound of a persimmon hitting the ground.
One thing to keep in mind is that persimmons come in male and female. Normally, only female trees produce fruit, and normally only when there is a male tree in the vicinity. 
Another tree that is exceptionally good at attracting and holding deer is the dwarf chinkapin oak, Quercus prinoides. Most oak trees don’t begin bearing acorns until they are at least 10 to 15 years old, and then only bear a good crop once every few years. Dwarf chinkapin oaks can begin bearing as early as 3 years old, and tend to bear a heavy crop every year.

Furthermore, their acorns are among the sweetest and most attractive to wildlife, of all acorns. The acorns are not damaged by freezing weather and remain palatable all winter long. The trees are broadly adaptable and will thrive just about anywhere except on poorly drained soil.
If you are interested in attracting and holding deer on your property during hunting season, give us a call or email. – Tom

Chestnut Growers Workshop

Practical Farmers of Iowa has been working with Red Fern Farm to put together a full-day chestnut workshop. This workshop will cover all aspects of chestnut production and marketing in the Midwest and will be held at the Iowa Arboretum, Madrid, Iowa, on February 2, 2019, from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Topics will include site selection, planting and tree management, varietal recommendations, grafted versus seedling trees, harvesting and curing, marketing, and financial resources.

3 Chestnuts in opening bur.

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 $2.30/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 2018 he sorted, bagged and sold over 84,000 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 20 acres of chestnut trees to his existing chestnut groves.

Speakers will include Roger Smith, Tom Wahl of Red Fern Farm, Aaron Wright District Forester with the Iowa DNR and Mike Gold, Associate Director of the Center for Agroforestry – University of Missouri. Preregistration is required and costs $10 to $60 depending on membership in Practical Farmers of Iowa. For more information, or to register, visit https://form.jotform.com/tamsyn/pfi-chestnut-workshop or call Debra at Practical Farmers of Iowa at (515) 232-5661.