Tag Archives: featured

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.

Ordering Trees for 2019

We will be updating our website as to what trees will be available for purchase in 2019 around the end of November, 2018.  At that time we will know what our seed supply looks like for chestnuts, heartnuts, pecans, pawpaws, and persimmons. Also in November we  count the trees we plan to make available for bare-root in April of 2019.  The only chestnut variety we will have available as bare-root trees in April 2019 will be Mossbarger.

Each year we will have limited number of some varieties of chestnut tree seedlings. Some will sell out very quickly. All trees we sell are good  for Iowa and usually for adjacent states. Pay attention to hardiness and know your growing zone.  – Kathy

September 5th Field Class

With the encouragement of Practical Farmers of Iowa, we will be having a field class on Wednesday afternoon from 1:00 -4:00 pm.

Agroforestry class listens to Tom Wahl near pawpaw grove.
Agroforestry class listens to Tom Wahl near pawpaw grove.

This field class will focus on a variety of tree crops suitable for forest farming systems in Iowa. Attendees will learn about
the production, maintenance and marketing of a handful of the 75 species of crop trees and shrubs found at Red Fern
Farm. Tom and Kathy will take guests on a tour through their agroforestry farm that specializes in nut, fruit and berry
crops, as well as medicinal forest plants, and discuss how they market their crops through U-pick. There will also be an
opportunity to sample some of the non-traditional crops featured throughout the day.

Registration is required: This event is free, but attendance
is limited to 50 people. To register, contact Debra
Boekholder, debra@practicalfarmers.org or
(515) 232-5661 by Monday, September 3.

1:00   Welcome to Red Fern Farm
1:05   Practical Farmers of Iowa Introduction
1:15   Iowa Farmers Union Introduction
1:20   Sustainable Iowa Land Trust Introduction
1:25   Split into two groups and heads to groves
1:30   Group lead by Kathy Dice learns about chestnuts.
Group lead by Tom Wahl learns about Asian
pears, heartnuts, and pawpaws.
2:30   Snacks back by farm entrance
3:00 Groups switch and go to new groves, learn from other guide
4:00 Finale questions and head home

See a field guide of other Practical Farmers of Iowa events at https://www.practicalfarmers.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/2018-Field-Day-Guide_web.pdf .


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.