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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

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.

Scionwood Available Now

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.

Bundles of scionwood.

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 have a “Practical Grafting” guideline available at Helpful Info/Grafting/. Also available there is our guide to Tom’s favorite grafting technique, the “Barn door Graft”, also known as ” Mega Chip Bud Grafting” .

Scionwood is not a tree. This is just a small piece of graft-able material that you can use to create an excellent tree of your own. You do need to graft it onto root stock. We do not sell root stock.

Student grafting.
Student learning “barn door” or “mega chip” grafting technique.

Black Raspberry You-Pick – New this year!

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.

Picking wild black raspberries at Red Fern Farm.

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.

Part of the 2017 wild black raspberry harvest from Red Fern Farm.

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 kathy@redfernfarm.com .

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.