Red Fern Farm

A Nursery of Trees and Ideas…

Page Last Updated:  January 09, 2017


Up Coming Events:


Commercial Chestnut Growing Conference

Saturday, February 11

Letts, Iowa

A program on growing chestnuts commercially in the Midwest. Topics to be covered will include markets, cultural practices, cost-share opportunities 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, Lisa Louck District Forester with the Iowa DNR and Mike Gold, Associate Director of the Center for Agroforestry - University of Missouri. Preregistration is required. The registration of $20 includes lunch, snacks and a 16 page primer on growing Chestnuts in Iowa. Registration is available on line at Louisa. For more information or other registration options call Kathy Dice at 319/729-5905. This program is being sponsored by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach - Louisa County, Red Fern Farm and Prairie Grove Chestnut Growers.


Preregistration is required. Register directly at

Admission: $20 - Includes Chestnut Primer, snacks, soup lunch (including chestnuts), tour of Red Fern Farm orchards



9:30     Door opens, registration begins

10:00   Why chestnuts? What markets are available? - Roger Smith, Prairie Grove Chestnut Growers

11:00   Can I Grow Chestnuts? - Site selection, soil types, hardiness zones – Tom Wahl, Red Fern Farm

12:00   Lunch

12:45   Is there cost share available to help plant chestnuts? Can I plant on CRP ground?  - Lisa Louck, Iowa DNR

1:15     What varieties of chestnuts are best to grow? - Mike Gold, Missouri Agroforesty Center of Missouri

2:00     Which is best grafted or seedling trees?  - Tom Wahl & Mike Gold

2:20     Q & A

3:00     Optional tour of Red Fern Farm Chestnut Orchards (15 minute drive to south at

13882 I Ave, Wapello, Iowa) - Tom Wahl & Kathy Dice


Roger Smith, Columbus Junction, Iowa – Owner and operator of Prairie Grove Chestnut Growers – a local brokerage that buys and sells locally grown chestnuts. In 2016 the brokerage processed 49,000 pounds of chestnuts. Roger and his wife Kay Smith also manages 10 acres of mature chestnut trees. Roger has been so impressed with the potential of chestnuts he plans to plant an additional 25 acres of chestnut on land he owns.

Tom Wahl, Wapello, Iowa – Has been growing chestnuts trees for over 25 years. He and his wife Kathy Dice, manage approximate 20 acres of chestnut trees in various stages of production. In 2016 he harvested over 6,300 pounds of nuts from approximately 100 mature trees and 1,000 immature trees using you-pick labor. He also manages a tree nursery selling a variety of crop producing trees, including chestnuts.

Mike Gold, Associate Director, University of Missouri – Agroforestsry Center of Missouri

Lisa Louck, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, District Forester. Phone: 319-523-2216 or email:

To get the most out of this conference, know the soil types where you want to plant chestnuts. A soil map of your proposed fields works well. Soil maps and books are available from your local NRCS office (former Soil Conservation Service).

Printable flyer.



Catalog     Home     About Us