Category Archives: Chestnuts

YOU-PICK AT RED FERN FARM 2021

Happy pawpaw pickers
Masks are not required in our groves, but your group can do as they please.

As of October 17, 2021, the you-pick at Red Fern Farm is pretty much done for 2021. Below is the original post:

Masks are not needed while harvesting in our sun-sanitized, outdoor 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. Picking hours are 1:00 PM until sunset.

Weigh- out or check-out shed at Red Fern Farm.

We are continuing the $15 minimum. This $15 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 car load.

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 the main parking areas. 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.

We have maps and directions are available to email or call if you need help finding us. Call 319-729-5905 to make a reservation. We are outside a lot September – October so be ready to leave a message.

Ripe Cornelian cherries from a grafted bush.

Cornelian Cherries: Cornelian cherries are usually ready around mid-August and continue to mid-September. We sell them at $2.00/pound for you-pick. 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).

Aronia Berries:  Our Aronia bushes continue to be more and more shaded out by the surrounding canopy trees. The Aronia season is usually short and in early September; about in he middle of Hazel season. There is no charge for Aronia berries (see note on $15 visitation minimum above). Call for more information.

Handful of hazels, mostly without clusters, collected at Red Fern Farm on August 24, 2019.

Hazels: Hazel season usually goes from early September to late September. It is pretty much over for 2021. Hazels are/were $1.00/pound for un-husked  clusters or $2.00/pound husked nuts for you-pick. 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, check out our  Hazel Seed Nut Planting Instructions sheet.

Pawpaw cluster
Cluster of ripening pawpaws.

Pawpaws:  We are looking at a huge crop this year and we have more trees bearing fruit. The cooler weather of early August may delay the ripening. Usually the season runs mid-September to the first hard freeze in October.

Brandon Family members enjoying the pawpaw patch fall of 2018.

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 only 2 deep or less. 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.

American persimmon

American Persimmon: Season usually runs mid-September to the end of October. The season started late this year due to late flowering. Price is $2.00/pound when you pick them, $3.00/pound when we pick them. The 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. Orange but slightly under ripe persimmons are very astringent, but will ripen off the tree. We will offer advice on judging ripeness of persimmons.

Heartnut

Heartnuts:  Surprise, Surprise. There are some heartnuts available this year. These delicious, high-fat nuts are available at two different rates. If you husk the nut so that you have mostly just the heartnut, they are $4/pound. If you leave the green, moist husk on, they are $2/pound (we know you don’t want to eat the husk).

Asian Pears: Season runs mid-September to late October. The Asian pear crop looks good this year. Apprentices from the Savanna Institute helped to thin the fruit on the lower branches so the flavor should be improved this year. Feel free to taste sample any fallen fruit to find a tree whose flavor you enjoy. Wholesome Asian pears are available at $2.00/pound when you pick them, $3.00/pound when we pick.

First chestnuts of 2021 Season

Chestnut: The season has been very slow to start. From September 13 to 23 we had 10 to 60 pounds of nuts dropping each day. Suddenly on 9/26/21 we had 270 pounds drop. We feel our chestnut season has finally started in earnest.

Hot, windy days make more chestnuts fall to the ground. Chestnuts start dropping each day around 1:00 pm and hit their peak around 3:00 pm. We take reservations for people to start picking at 1:00 pm. We will set you up in a grove of trees depending on how many pounds of chestnuts you hope to harvest and how many people are in your group. We provide buckets and a neat tool called a nut wizard. Watch a Nut Wizard in action.

For 2021 we will be charging $3.00/pound for nuts harvested on Saturdays or Sundays. Chestnuts harvested Monday – Friday only cost $2.75/pound. We have a waiting list of 150 families and groups who can only come on weekends. We have lots of openings for week days

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.

2021 Newsletter and catalog

Front page of Red Fern Farm 2021 Newsletter/Catalog

Our 2021 newsletter/catalog is hitting people’s email boxes today.  In the following week, paper copies will be in some folks mailboxes. Tom spent a fair amount of time on an article about how to select a good site for chestnut trees. You can read that article here rather than wait for your digital or paper copy of the newsletter. In the article he mentions the Web Soil Survey and the Woodland Suitability Recommendations (see below).

In the catalog part you will see what trees we hope to grow for 2021 and listings of scionwood that is available now. The Scion wood will close down for orders in February and March, depending on varieties.  We have already taken orders for half of all the chestnut trees we plan to grow in 2021. Please don’t wait too long to place an order for these potted trees. And remember, we don’t ship potted trees. You do have to come to our farm to pick them up.

We do have a few bare-rooted pawpaw and persimmon trees available this spring.  Oops. Now all the bare-rooted persimmon trees are gone. But we may have a few more as we cancel orders where we have not received a 25% deposit. Feel free to call or email if you think our website is out of date. (But our website is often more knowledgeable than we are). – Kathy Dice

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.

Other Good Tree Nurseries

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 9 Cooperative 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 cluster on bush.
Honeyberry cluster on bush.

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

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Photo from Ave Maria Nursery.

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:

Burnt Ridge Nursery & Orchards, Onalaska, WA https://www.burntridgenursery.com/

Oikos Tree Crops, Kalamazoo, MI https://oikostreecrops.com/

Richters Herbs, Canada (seeds only) https://www.richters.com/

Raintree Nursery, Morton WA https://raintreenursery.com/

OneGreenWorld, Portland OR https://onegreenworld.com/

There are a lot of other fine nurseries, but these are the ones we are familiar with and can vouch for.

Ordering Chestnut Seedlings for 2020 can Begin!

Stacked seed trays in walk-in cooler
Chestnut seed trays stacked in walk-in cooler for winter stratification.

We have all the chestnut seed nuts in their seed trays bedded down for their long winter’s nap. We can fairly predict what we will be able to grow for 2020. Because of the almost complete failure of our chestnut crop, we were not able to harvest seed nuts from most of our outstanding chestnut trees. You will see a great change in what varieties we offer this summer for chestnut seedlings.

Because of the almost complete failure of our chestnut crop, we were not able to harvest seed nuts from most of our outstanding chestnut trees. You will see a great change in what varieties we offer this summer for chestnut seedlings.

One bright point is the new variety  “Resilient”. This 29 year old chestnut tree is the only one out of over 1,000 bearing trees that was able to stay healthy and put on a full crop of nuts despite all the weather extremes. We will be offering seedlings from this tree as well as ‘Ohio Outstanding’. ‘Ohio Outstanding’ seedlings are from some of the best trees in a large commercial planting in Ohio.

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Our chestnut trees will be in either small or medium sized pots.

You will also find we are offering chestnut trees in two sizes this summer: “small” and “medium”. To fulfill the demand for early planting in May, we will be offering chestnut trees grown in 58.6 cubic inch pots that will be available a month earlier than our standard/medium sized trees grown in 78 cubic inch pots. Both pots sizes are 9 inches deep and are designed to keep trees from becoming root bound. Because the trees can quickly fill the smaller pots with roots, the smaller trees will be released from the nursery earlier at a discounted price. These trees will be available by pre-order only. We are potting them up based on the orders we receive.

You will notice a price increase as well for small orders of trees and for trees of known parentage. The cheapest option for trees, at $4 each, are for orders over 100 of our small trees from the PQK selection. The PQK selection are seedlings who have either Peach, Qing or Korh for a mother tree and another grafted variety as a pollinizer.

Please feel free to email or call with your questions before placing an order. Remember you can mail a check with your 25% deposit to hold trees at our nursery to avoid using PayPal or paying credit card fees.

Chestnut Tree Seedlings for 2020

The weather extremes of 2018 – 2019 in southeast Iowa will be affecting Red Fern Farm into 2020 as we deal with the shortage of good quality chestnut seed nuts for our nursery. Our chestnut trees were damaged by weather events and for the most part did not set a crop in 2019. As a result, we were not able to gather seed nuts from many of our own named varieties or any of their crosses (Red Fern Super, Shotgun, QingSu, BadgerQing, Giant Badger I or II, Large Badger). We purchased seed from other sources. As a result we will have a limited number of seedlings available from known grafted mother trees. These seedlings will have a price mark up to reflect their limited numbers.

We will have a cheaper option that includes what was sold to us as a “bulk” seed. We know the bulk seed came from 3 types of grafted mother trees: Peach, Qing and Kohr.

Placing seed chestnuts in a sprouting tray for overwintering.

As we create our seed trays, we will create an estimate of how many trees we will have available of each variety and list them as available for ordering on our website. You can then order your trees. You have the option of paying in full with a credit card on the website (requires an additional 3% fee to cover the credit card fees) or mailing a check. The check option includes no extra fees. The check option allows you to pay down a 25% deposit on the order. The deposit will hold your trees at our nursery until August 31.

We will have no bare-rooted chestnut trees available for shipping Spring of 2020. – Kathy Dice

You-Pick at Red Fern Farm 2019 – $15 minimum

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.

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

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.

Mother and son walk into food forest for you-Pick
Burnham Family starts a morning of 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.

Three ripening Cornelian cherries on grafted bush.
Three ripening Cornelian cherries on grafted bush.

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

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Picking-pawpaws-cropped.jpg
Brandon Family members enjoying the pawpaw patch fall of 2018.

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.

Chestnut tree on June 14 showing damage from severe weather.

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.

Healthy chestnut branch in August with no chestnut burs.

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.

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.