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 know how frustrating it can be trying to find reasonably priced, good quality trees to start your own perennial venture. That was one reason we started our own tree nursery here at Red Fern Farm. We grew trees to meet our own needs. We ended up selling the surplus trees and eventually developed it into a full time business.
Unfortunately for our customers, we have been trying to scale back our nursery. We have been offering less variety and, despite selling out sooner and sooner each year, we do not expand.
The good news is there are now other nurseries offering good tree stock. If we are sold out of what you need or stopped supplying it, please check out these nurseries. Some may be much closer to you.
Route 9Cooperative Located in Ohio and managed by the president of Northern Nut Growers, Greg Miller. They offer excellent genetics with their chestnuts trees. Do be cautious as they are in an area with Chestnut Gall Wasp and Chestnut weevils. https://route9cooperative.com/
Forrest Keeling located just north of Saint Louis in Missouri. They have an excellent selection of chestnuts, pawpaw, pecans, and persimmons. they use a growing technique, RPM, that will give you tall yearling chestnut trees. The chestnut trees can have a problem with spiraling roots, so try to get your chestnut trees as early in the summer as possible. They are also in an area with chestnut weevils. https://www.fknursery.com/
Honeyberry USA in Minnesota is an excellent source of good quality honeyberry plants or Haskap and information on this wonderful crop. This is the nursery where we order all our honeyberry plants from. They are very nice people to work with. http://www.honeyberryusa.com/
Oklahoma Chestnut, Fruit & Nut LLC with Steve Lucas. He is selling beautiful looking chestnuts down in Oklahoma. Reach out to him via his facebook page. An Oklahoma Chestnut, Fruit & Nut LLC
Ave Maria Acres in eastern Nebraska. This nursery is run by Jarred Dressman (who learned a lot while he interned on our farm). Along with chestnut seedlings and a varieties of other perennials, he has an incredible array of grafted apple trees available. https://www.avemariaacres.com/
Other nurseries we use for hard to find plants or seeds:
We offer high quality scion wood at $5/linear foot. Quantities of some varieties are limited (only 3 feet available). Shipping is $15 to cover handling cost as well as postage. There is no limit on how much scionwood you can get for the same $15 shipping price.
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.
You-Pick at Red Fern Farm has closed for 2019. Below is the information we posted for the season when it ran.
You-pick at Red Fern Farm is still 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 weekends fill up quickly.
New this year is a $15 minimum. This $15, 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.
The weird weather from fall of 2018 into the spring of 2019 has caused severe damage in our groves. Some trees will take years to recover. Each crop has been affected differently. You will see notes below. We will not be able to host as many customers this year in the pawpaw patches and there will be NO Chestnut You-Pick.
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 are loaded this year. The berries are available free for you-pick (see note on $15 visitation minimum above). They will 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.
Hazels: (Still available as of 9/29/19) A decent crop of Hazels are available. Hazels are 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.
Cornelian Cherries: (Season is over for 2019) Cornelian Cherries are available at $2.00/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).
Pawpaws: 80% of the pawpaw flower buds froze off this past winter. There is a much smaller crop available for 2019 and it is ripening later. For 2019, the pawpaw season runs from late
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 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, but took a hit from the past weather. 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 2019 season starts in late 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. Only orange persimmons will continue to ripen off the tree.
Heartnuts: Heartnuts got through the crazy weather just fine. 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.
Asian Pears: The only Asian pears we will have this fall are Korean Giants that ripen in late October. The fruit of Korean Giants are large and excellent keepers, even at room temperature. They are available at $2.00/pound when you pick them, $3.00/pound when we pick.
Spicebush: Our spicebushes froze to the ground this past winter. No spicebush berries for 2019.
Chestnuts: Not available for You-Pick in 2019 – Sorry – What happened? Very unusual weather. The fall of 2018 was very wet. The soil was saturated from September 2018 through June 2019. In October the weather was still warm and the trees did not harden off for winter. In early November, the winter hit with very cold temperatures. The trees that had not hardened off enough for winter took severe winter damage. Then when Spring came, we got record amounts of rainfall. During May and the first half of June we averaged one inch of rain each day for 6 weeks. Chestnut trees like well drained soil. All that water kept soaking in and keeping the ground around the roots saturated. Our tree roots started dying. In June many trees had still not leafed out. We were afraid we had lost 80% of our mature chestnut trees. In July we started to see recovery. Now in August we think we only lost 10% of our trees, but there was no chestnut bloom in June and hardly any burs on the trees. We now believe we may only have a few nuts, but not a real crop in 2019. As such we are not opening our grove specifically for chestnut harvest. You are welcome to harvest what you find while here (see $15 minimum above), but we discourage people to come just for chestnuts.
See the previous you-pick season posts on how we ran the you-pick in 2017 & 2018 for chestnuts.
2019 Chestnut You-Pick Prices: If you manage to find any chestnuts, you pay $2.75/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 $2.50. 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.
This was posted June 28th, We have now closed the Raspberry patch for the year.
We have a bumper crop of black raspberries this year. We are offering them to you-pick customers for $3.00/pound. If we pick them, they are $10.00/pound.
Tom started mowing paths around the berry patches back in May. Now there is a network of paths in our “wild” woods edged with wild black raspberries. This is rough ground. In some places there are stalks of plants sticking up or munched up thorns from Honey Locust on the paths. There are mosquitoes and black flies. There are also lots and lots of berries. Two customers the morning of June 28 casually picked 5 1/2 pounds in about two hours. You will need to
bring your own boxes, but you can drive up close to where the paths start.
If you are interested in picking, contact us. We will try to schedule you so you have a huge area all to yourself. You can call 319-729-5905 or email email@example.com .
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.
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.
June of 2013 Iowa Public Television visited Red Fern Farm to tape a session for a new show called Iowa Ingredient. We had a wonderful time with the film crew and got to meet Cari Nebe as she drove into the grove to tape the intro for the show.