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Chestnut Tree Care: Guide To Growing Chestnut Trees

Chestnut Tree Care: Guide To Growing Chestnut Trees


Chestnut trees have been cultivated for their starchy nuts for thousands of years, at least since 2,000 BC. The nuts have been an important source of food for humans in the past, used to make flour as well as a substitute for potatoes. Currently, nine different chestnut tree types grow in temperate areas around the world. All are deciduous trees belonging to the family Fagaceae, like oaks and beeches. If you are thinking of growing chestnut trees, read on for information about chestnut tree care.

Chestnut Tree Information

Before you start growing chestnut trees, read up on chestnut tree information. That will help you determine whether your backyard will be a good site for one of these trees. Additionally, it is important to note that these are not the same trees as horse chestnuts (Aesculus) – of which the nuts are not edible.

The size of chestnut trees depends on the species, but, generally, chestnuts are big trees. The tallest species is the American chestnut that scrapes the sky at 100 feet (30+ m.). Be sure you check the mature height and spread of the tree you are considering before you plant. In addition to American chestnut (Castanea spp), you will find both Asian and European varieties.

Chestnut trees are attractive, with reddish-brown or grey bark, smooth when the trees are young, but furrowed with age. The leaves are a fresh green, darker on the top than the bottom. They are oval or lance-shaped and edged by widely separated teeth.

The flowers of the chestnut tree are long, drooping catkins that appear on the trees in spring. Each tree bears both male and female flowers, but they cannot self-pollinate. The potent fragrance of the flowers attracts insect pollinators.

How to Grow Chestnut Trees

If you are wondering how to grow chestnut trees, the most important consideration is soil. All chestnut tree types require well-drained soil to thrive. They can grow in partially clay soil if the land is on a slope, but they will grow best in deep, sandy soils.

Be sure your soil is acidic before growing chestnut trees. If you aren’t sure, get the pH tested. You need a pH of between 4.5 and 6.5.

Chestnut Tree Care

If you read up on chestnut tree information, you’ll find that growing chestnut trees is not difficult if they are planted in an appropriate site. When planted on good, deep soil, the trees are very drought tolerant when established. Young seedlings require regular irrigation.

If you are growing chestnut trees for the nut production, however, you’ll need to provide more chestnut tree care. The only way you can be sure of getting abundant, large-sized nuts is if you water the trees regularly throughout the growing season.

Most chestnut tree types only begin to produce nuts after they are three to 7 years old. Still, keep in mind that some chestnut tree types can live up to 800 years.


Chestnut Tree Information - Learn How To Grow Chestnut Trees - garden

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  • Shrubs & Hedges
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      • Abelia Shrubs
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  • Fruits & Nuts
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      • Apple Trees
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Fall planting is an excellent time to plant trees because temperatures are cooling off and the trees will require less watering. The trees will start to go dormant and lose their leaves, but their root systems will continue to grow throughout the winter months, giving them a head start on next year’s growing season.

The trees you have received still have leaves on them and are actively growing. Even though the cool months of the fall and winter are approaching, they will still need to be watered for the best transplant success. It is critical that their roots receive adequate water until their leaves begin to drop and the trees go into winter dormancy. You may notice some browning of the leaves on your trees. This is the result of them starting to shut down for the dormant winter months and they will continue to lose the remainder of their leaves during the next several weeks, which is a normal process. Once they have lost their leaves and are dormant, they won’t require as much water, but it is still critical to keep their roots slightly moist throughout the winter months. Their roots will continue to grow over the winter. Rainfall can be adequate in the fall/winter months, but if you experience a dry period for a length of time, they may require supplemental watering. Mulching them well can help keep the roots moist during the winter months. Leaf litter, pine needles, shredded or fine bark and even hay are acceptable mulches, but avoid large bark nuggets. Large bark nuggets require nitrogen to break down and can rob this valuable nutrient from your trees during the growing season. Once they leaf out again in the spring, their need for water will increase as temperatures rise again.

  1. Remove the trees from their packaging and water them. Inspect the trees for damage (drying or breakage). If there are ANY problems with your shipment, WE MUST HEAR FROM YOU IMMEDIATELY UPON RECEIPT OF THE TREES by calling 1.855.386.7826 or email [email protected] If your package is badly damaged, please discuss this with the UPS driver at delivery and do not throw away the packaging in case you need to file a claim with UPS.
  2. You can plant the trees right away. For fall plantings, it is important to get the trees into the ground to allow their roots to get established before the winter months arrive. An alternative is to up-pot them to a 3 gallon container for spring planting. You will need to protect the roots while in containers against freezes. For questions about the overwintering process, please contact us.
  3. Your planting site selection should be in full sun and in well-drained, sandy loam soils with a pH between 5-6.5. Do not plant in non-low lying areas that stay saturated for long periods of time. Most trees do not grow well in wet soils. Dense clay soils stunt root growth and hold too much water, leading to weak, slow-growing trees. Also, avoid frost pockets (bottoms of valleys) because late frosts can hurt nut and fruit production, especially in northern locations. A sheltered north-facing slope protected from drying winds and low sun of winter may be better for cold windy sites. Prepare the area by removing any weeds prior to planting. This step is often overlooked but is absolutely critical to any successful planting. Weeds and grass steal light, water and nutrients from your trees. We recommend weed mats or mulch.
  4. Dig a hole 2 times wider than the pot, so the roots can grow outward without crowding, but not deeper than the root ball.
  5. Carefully remove the tree from the container keeping the soil around the roots intact. It helps to tap the outside of the container to loosen the edge. Carefully slide the tree from the container. Don’t yank the tree out of the container as this can separate the roots from the tree.
  6. Plant them at the same height they were grown in the container (at the crown where the bark changed from green to brown), with plenty of room for the roots. Partially fill the planting hole with the native soil. Set the tree in the middle of the hole with plenty of room for the roots. Avoid planting the tree too deep. Using some soil, secure the tree in a straight position, then fill with native soil and firming the soil around the lower roots making sure there are no air pockets. Keep backfilling until the soil is level with the root collar. Do not add soil amendments such as compost, peat, or bark this can cause root fungus. Do not use fertilizer, potting soil or chemicals on your young trees.
  7. We recommend keeping the pot stake attached to the tree for 1 season, unless the green tape attached to the pot stake is too tight then remove the pot stake and re attach with fresh horticulture tape. After 1 season you can remove the pot stake. If the tree appears stable staking is not needed. If staking is necessary, hold the trunk with one hand to find the height at which the unsupported top can stand up on its own and will spring back to a vertical position if gently flexed. Allow trees a slight amount of flex rather than holding them rigidly in place. Tree straps should be made of material that will not injure the tree. If using Grow Tubes then staking the tree is not necessary. You will need to attach a stake to your grow tubes. Grow Tube Shelter Installation Instruction
  8. Create a water-holding basin around the hole and water the trees in thoroughly at planting, making sure that there are no air pockets around the roots. Water slowly at the drip line. After the water has soaked in, spread a protective layer of mulch 2-4” deep around the trunk pulling the mulch a few inches away from the trunk. Leaf litter, hay, shredded or fine bark or pine needles are good choices for mulch or use weed mats to prevent weed competition and reduce water evaporation. While the trees still have leaves on them, they will need to be watered at least twice/week, perhaps more on sandier soils. The amount of water needed is dependent on your soil, temperatures and rainfall. As the temperatures cool off and they start to lose their leaves, you can gradually water less, keeping the roots slightly moist throughout the winter. IT IS EXTREMELY CRITICAL THAT NEWLY TRANSPLANTED TREES BE WATERED REGULARLY DURING THE FIRST FEW YEARS OF GROWTH. It is the most important factor to ensure the successful start of your new trees!
  9. Remove any ties, tags and labels from the trees to prevent girdling branches and trunks.
  10. We recommend Grow Tubes for wildlife, food plots and forest plantings. Grow Tubes act like mini-greenhouses, recycling moisture from leaf transpiration to nurture growth of young seedlings until the tree is big enough to survive on its own. Grow Tubes also provide protection against deer, rodent and rabbit browsing and chewing, and can also provide a barrier against herbicide drift if herbicide is used to control weeds (which can kill young trees). Do not use black plastic drain pipe or tubing as tree shelter. They will damage your trees. Weeds compete for water and fertilizer, so weed control is important. We also recommend weed mats, available on our website.
  11. You do not need to prune your trees at this time. After next summer’s growing season, you can do any necessary pruning during the following winter months.
  12. Do not fertilize the trees when planting in the fall! Fertilizing can promote new growth and the goal is to allow the trees to go dormant for the winter season. Fertilize next spring after your trees have leafed out and once the danger of frost has passed. We recommend a time-released fertilizer with balanced micronutrients, such as the Scotts Osmocote Indoor/Outdoor 19-6-12, Espoma Holly Tone or Tree Tone Organic Fertilizer (available at most Garden Centers). Do not expect your trees to grow rapidly the first year. The trees will be putting a majority of their energy into new root production. Once established, they will make rapid growth in the following years.
  13. We recommend removing any small fruit or nuts that begin to form during the first 2 years. This leaves the tree with more energy for root establishment. By year 3-5, your chestnut and fruit trees should start to bear depending on care and climate. Trees planted in colder regions such as USDA zone 5, may bear between 5-7 years of age.

For more detailed information on growing and care, visit the explore the Learning Center.


How to grow an American chestnut

American chestnut thrived in eastern North American forests for thousands of years, but in the 20th century, an exotic fungus almost eliminated the species. To date, chestnut restoration has mostly meant breeding blight-resistant trees.

Now, thanks to collaboration between the U.S. Forest Service, The American Chestnut Foundation and institutions like the University of Tennessee Tree Improvement Program, those blight-resistant trees are on the horizon, and scientists are developing silvicultural strategies to restore them to forests across their former range.

“The American chestnut has not been an ecologically meaningful part of the landscape in decades,” says Stacy Clark, a scientist with the agency’s Southern Research Station Upland Hardwood Ecology and Management unit. “We need to test silvicultural and nursery practices for planting and growing these blight-resistant American chestnut seedlings once they become available.”

Since only limited numbers of presumed blight-resistant trees are available, Clark and her colleagues used pure American chestnut seedlings for the silvicultural study recently published in the journal Forests.

Like all pure American chestnuts, the seedlings are susceptible to blight, but before becoming infected can inform the researchers about how chestnut seedlings respond to different light conditions. The researchers created open, sunny conditions on the forest floor with a two-age shelterwood harvest, and obtained low light conditions by removing trees in the middle canopy layer.

The study sites were along forested slopes in the Bent Creek Experimental Forest in the Southern Appalachian Mountains.

For 5 years, researchers monitored seedling survival, growth and blight development. In both sites, approximately 67 percent of trees survived, and both sites had similar levels of blight occurrence. However, the two-age shelterwood treatment gave seedlings a clear advantage in growth.

“Seedlings grown in the shelterwood site were significantly taller and bigger,” says Clark.

Researchers also looked at the effects of seedling size, and found that the shelterwood site could have been even more productive if only the largest seedlings had been planted. Keeping the young trees free to grow by controlling competing vegetation on shelterwood sites may also have helped the seedlings.

“If chestnut seedlings are planted in treatments similar to the midstory-removal in this study, the trees will take 5 years to grow as tall as seedlings in a two-age shelterwood harvest will grow in just 3 years,” says Clark.

The findings are timely, as the shelterwood regeneration treatment is part of the Forest Service’s national management plans for the southeastern United States.


CHESTNUT ORCHARDING

The U.S. is the only country in the world that can grow chestnuts that does not have a large commercial chestnut industry. The U.S. imports $20 million of chestnuts yearly because there are fewer than 2,500 acres of chestnut orchards in the U.S. It would take 10,000 acres of producing chestnut orchards to supply what we import!

LARGE MARKET POTENTIAL

American-grown nuts can reach the market sooner, fresher, and bring a higher price than imports, which are often low in quality, often because grocers do not know how to handle them and the nuts spoil at room temperatures. U.S. consumption is less than 1 ounce per person per year, but 1 pound per capita in Europe and 2 pounds in Asia. It would take 120,000 acres of chestnut orchards to supply U.S. consumption at European levels, and create a $300 million new agricultural industry for America! Growers who produce high quality chestnuts in America will have a virtually unlimited market available to them for many years to come.

VERY PROFITABLE ORCHARD CROP

Chestnuts can be a very profitable crop. They begin to bear in only 3-5 years, and by 10 years can produce as much as 10-20 lbs/tree. At maturity (15-20 years) they can produce as much as 50-100 lbs/tree or up to 2,000-3,000 lbs/acre each year. Trees planted in colder regions such as USDA zone 5, may bear between 5-7 years of age . Wholesale prices for large, high quality chestnuts are $3.00-5.00/lb, and higher for organically grown chestnuts. Retail prices range from $3-10.00/lb. This is a superior return to pecans, hazelnuts and many other tree crops!

One of our orchardists grows his crop organically and harvests 16,000 lbs on 10 acres, selling them to Whole Foods for $6.00/lb on average.That is a nice return for a small orchard and seasonal work to harvest and ship!

HOW TO ORCHARD CHESTNUTS

The following guidelines will help you understand all of the process of setting up and operating a commercial chestnut orchard. REMEMBER THAT THIS IS FARMING! There are no guarantees, and you will get out of the orchard what you put into it. The following information will give you guidelines to choose the right location, establish your trees and take your crop to market.

SITE SELECTION

If you want to grow chestnuts commercially, it is better to look for the right piece of land than try to force the trees to grow in a poor location. If your land does not fit the descriptions below, you will face problems with tree growth and production.

Pick a location with good soil drainage and good air drainage such as on the top or side of a hill, to avoid frost pockets where cold air or late frosts settle at the bottoms of valleys. Avoid areas with soil that stays saturated for long periods of time, such as creek bottoms or low areas that stay saturated during snow melt in spring. Areas that are too steep may be hard to harvest with machinery.

SOILS

Chestnuts prefer a well-drained (better drained than apple trees require) sandy loam with a pH of 5-6.5, but will grow in other soils. Avoid heavy clay and wet soils with a high water table or that stay saturated for long periods of time.

Look at the trees on the surrounding property. If the land supports large oak and hickory trees naturally, it should be good for chestnuts. If the native vegetation is poor (unless the land was recently logged), look elsewhere.

For more information visit the Soils page in the Learning Center.

PLANTING BASICS

Follow our Planting Instructions for initial planting. For additional growing information continue to the Growing and Care section of the Learning Center.

IRRIGATION

Irrigation is insurance. If you do not have irrigation, you cannot expect to get good growth of the trees as quickly or consistent crops of nuts. Water is the limiting factor for most tree growth, and if the year you plant is a drought year, your trees will struggle and may not live without adequate irrigation. If they are stressed at the beginning, they may never fully recover and grow into strong healthy trees. Irrigation eliminates many (but not all) of these risks. It is inexpensive and easy to install, and readily available at Irrigation Supply stores such as John Deere Landscape stores. We strongly recommend using an irrigation system in your orchard.

GROW TUBES

Grow Tubes offer many benefits in the growth and establishment of young trees. Read more about Grow Tubes here. We recommend their use as an important part of establishing and protecting your orchard.

PROTECTING YOUR ORCHARD

Animals, especially deer, love to eat chestnut nuts and leaves and rub the velvet off their antlers on young trees. Grow tubes help protect against deer browsing and killing the young trees with their antlers, as well as protect against rodents and rabbits chewing on the trunks, especially during winter when food is scarce. However, if nut predation is severe, it may be necessary to fence your orchard. An 8’ metal deer fence is expensive, especially on large orchards. A very effective alternative is a 3 wire electric fence. Deer can eat up to half of all production in an orchard so it is important to look into protection.

FERTILIZATION

It is essential to provide sufficient fertilizer to push trees into growing as rapidly as possible and to make up for deficiencies in soil fertility on your land. Do not use standard agricultural fertilizer at planting as it may burn the young roots. We recommend time-release Scotts Osmocote or a similar fertilizer with a broad spectrum of micro-nutrients. Once the trees are established your local County Agent can analyze soil tests and determine the best fertilizer regime for continued growth.

WEED CONTROL

Grass and weeds are the biggest competitor for water and nutrients with a young tree trying to get established. Weed control is essential to orchard establishment. We recommend weed mats, and the careful use of herbicide such as Roundup (Glyphosate). Roundup can kill young trees even through the bark, so you must protect the trees with Grow Tubes or a shield during application.

ORGANIC GROWING

Organic chestnuts can bring as much as 50% higher prices than non-organic, in part because all imported nuts into the U.S. must be fumigated during importation, so no imported nuts can be labeled organic. Specialty health food grocers are very interested in purchasing American-grown organic chestnuts.

However, growing organically is not easy. It is difficult to provide enough nutrients, especially Nitrogen, organically. It requires much more work and expense. There are some good alternative sources of organic fertilizers such as Fertrell and worm casting tea, but fish emulsion, bone meal, blood meal, kelp products and other sources may not provide sufficient nutrients and the growth of the trees may suffer.

The other problem is if your orchard is infested with Chestnut Weevil. At present there is no organic spray to combat this. Many areas in the east have weevils, especially if there are old Chinese chestnut trees growing in the area (common in Appalachia).

If you are interested in organic growing, we recommend using traditional chemical fertilizers in the first 3-5 years to push your trees and grow them as large as possible, and then transition to organic production (3 years chemical free is required to be Certified Organic) as the trees begin to bear.

It will require additional research to learn the best ways to grow your trees organically and may be possible if you are in a pest-free area.

TREE SPACING

Dunstan Chestnuts can get large, as much as 60’ tall and 40’ wide. We recommend a 30’x30’ (54 trees per acre) or 40’x40’ (25 trees per acre) spacing for planting. Chestnuts bear on the outer growth each year, and so maximizing sunlight around the tree increases overall production. If the trees are planted closer (20’x20’), it will increase early nut production but the trees will crowd out and production will only occur at the top of the trees (15+ years). The orchard will need to be thinned, or trees will need to be radically pruned to keep them on this spacing.

GRAFTED VS SEEDLING TREES

Most orchard crops are planted with grafted (cloned) trees of particular varieties. However, chestnuts, due to several reasons, do not graft well, and in particular, grafted trees suffer high mortality rates in the first few years after planting. This is due to latent graft incompatibility between rootstock and scion, and is more severe in northern states (sometimes as much as 50-90% loss) than in less stressful environments. Because of this we no longer sell grafted trees. Grafting may work when young seedling rootstock are established in the field and then grafted in place after 1-2 years. However, for best results, the seedlings must be grown from nuts harvested from the particular varieties that you want to use to graft (and even this does not always stop incompatibility).

Our Dunstan Chestnut trees are grown from seed harvested from an orchard of grafted trees of our largest nutted varieties all inter-pollinating each other, and we plant only the largest nuts. Chestnuts are affected by metazenia, in which the nut size of the male pollen parent determines the nut size of tree grown from nuts planted from these trees.

Over 35 years we have learned that our Dunstan trees bear consistently good-sized nuts, averaging 20-35/lb, which brings the highest prices in the market. This has been proven by many of our growers who planted these same trees. We believe it is better to have trees bearing large but sometimes variable nut sizes than to have dead trees in the orchard from graft incompatibility.

ORCHARD FLOOR

It is important to have a grass cover in the orchard under the trees that can be mowed close to allow for easy harvest. Finish mowers or flail mowers are used that mow closer than Bush-hog style rotary mowers, and grass species should be chosen that have low growing profiles. Your local County Agent can make recommendations of different types available for your region.

Strips along the rows of trees on both sides can be kept clean with herbicides such as Roundup and pre-emergent herbicides to keep weed seed from sprouting, or the areas under the trees can be covered with nursery ground cloth (weed mats) for organic production.

If the area you are planting was not in field agriculture before (that has been plowed regularly and is relatively smooth), you will need to remove stumps and level the surface by plowing first as much as possible so that when grass is established it will be on a smooth surface that can be mowed for harvest.

PRUNING

Chestnuts are grown in a central leader form, with the main trunk growing straight and branching beginning high enough off the ground to be able to mow and allow machinery access underneath (6’+). Getting hit by a low hanging branch with a chestnut burr while mowing is not pleasant! The trees grow in the pattern somewhat naturally, but some limited pruning to remove branches that get crossed or hang down may be necessary. Do not over prune – they are not like peaches that require annual heaving pruning.

HARVEST

Chestnuts ripen beginning in early September in the deep South, in mid September in the central states and October in northern states. Harvest lasts 4-6 weeks depending on varieties and climate. Most of the growth in the size of the nuts occurs in the last month before harvest, so if conditions are not optimum (enough moisture or an early freeze) the crop can be affected.

Chestnuts are borne in spiny husks called burrs. These burrs open naturally when the nuts ripen and both nuts and burrs fall to the ground.

Traditional harvest is done by hand. We call this a U-Prick operation! Heavy gloves are a necessity. Pickers can be paid by the pound or by the bucket to incentivize them to work quickly, and to control costs. Some growers offer this as a fund-raiser to schools or church groups, etc.

In warmer climates nuts should be harvested daily if possible to lower desiccation and spoilage of the nuts in the field. In northern areas nuts can be harvested less frequently, however without fencing, predation by deer and other animals can dramatically lower harvest quantities.

Nuts and burrs are brought into the barn and separated by hand or by using a machine called a Pecan Cleaner (see photo). This has a rotating drum that rubs the burrs off the nuts and separates them.

Commercial nut harvesting machinery used in California for almonds and walnuts will work on chestnuts, but the orchard floor must be smooth and flat for this to be effective. The nuts are swept into a windrow between the orchard rows, and picked up with a machine and deposited into bins for hauling to the barn.

Alternatively, suction harvesters are made in Italy by FACMA that work like a giant vacuum cleaner are available that suck the nuts and burrs off the ground, separates the nuts from the burrs and puts the nuts into bags. These machines run off the tractor PTO and can pick up as many nuts per hour as 10 workers with only 2-3 people to run it.

POST HARVEST and STORAGE

Once the nuts have been removed from their burrs. T hey are washed in a water bath. If you have a weevil infection, the nuts must be soaked in hot water (122F) for 30 minutes and immediately cooled to 32-35F in a cooler. This kills weevil eggs before they hatch. Nuts with worms (young weevils) float to the surface and are removed and destroyed.

After washing, nuts are run on a sorting line for inspection and then through a sizer. The sizer is a rolling drum with different sized holes, allowing the nuts to fall through to bins below (see photos below). Nuts are sized by diameter and # of nuts per pound.

Once sized, nuts are placed in a woven breathable polyethylene bag (the type used for rice), typically in 26 pound increments, to allow for desiccation and net 25 lbs/bag.

Because chestnuts are living seeds, if they dry out the embryo dies and the high levels of carbohydrate allow mold to infect the nuts. The nuts must be stored under refrigeration as soon after harvest as possible. Traditionally in Europe they were stored in caves, or under chestnut leaves on the north side of a building in the shade.

Store the nuts at 32-33F in a walk-in cooler. These may be purchased from restaurant supply houses (those specializing in used equipment) or a reefer shipping container can be outfitted with an electric cooling unit (instead of the diesel).

The cooler should be sterilized with Zeritol or other cleaner and kept clean. The bags of nuts should be rotated regularly as this decreases the spread of mold between nuts and bags. Nuts stored this way should last 2-3 months through the selling season.

SELLING YOUR CROP

The market for chestnuts is virtually unlimited. American nuts get to market earlier, fresher and in better condition than imported nuts and can bring a higher price. The present growers that have established markets do not have nearly enough chestnuts in supply to meet the demand for their crop.

However, you will have to work to make the connections to sell your crop. If you have never sold anything before (except maybe a car or a house), it can seem daunting to walk into a grocery store and try to pitch the produce buyer to purchase your crop. The following is a list of different buyers of chestnuts in the market today.

Remember that the cost of freight (delivery to the customer) is a key component of the final price to the buyer and must be factored in when quoting prices.

Cooperatives

There are several regional Cooperatives in Florida, Ohio and Michigan that already have markets for their crops, and you can join a co-op and sell through them. The co-ops typically deduct a fee for handling and storage, and may have cleaning lines and storage facilities available, lessening the initial investment. The folks that run the co-ops are also excellent sources of information on how to grow and sell, facing the same problems as you.

Grocery stores and chains

Many grocery stores and even chains are promoting buying local produce. Ask the produce department manager if they have the ability to buy from local growers. This can work quite effectively for selling your crop. However, some larger chains need sources that can supply many stores over the holiday period from before Thanksgiving through Christmas, and there are no orchards or co-ops in the U.S. today that have this capacity – they can only provide enough for a few stores in a limited area. The natural food chains such as Whole Foods Market, Earthfare, Fresh Market and even Safeway all support local sourcing, and will pay a premium for organically grown nuts.

Remember that to be set up as a vendor to some grocery chains will require a large liability insurance policy (as much as $2 Million) with the chain listed as additional insured, plus may have a lengthy Vendor setup process, require UPC bar-coding, etc.

Food Brokers and Distributors

Food brokers work between the suppliers and the grocery chains. They are also the major importers of chestnuts into the U.S. They will charge a 6-10% fee for handling the sale, depending on volume. They know the markets that buy the nuts, and may be a valuable outlet.

Distributors purchase the product and hold it in storage to resell to their customers, both grocery chains and restaurants. This can be a valuable avenue to move your crop. Distributors that specialize in fresh produce are the best target to sell to.

Asian Food Stores

Asians and especially Koreans still consume large quantities of chestnuts as part of their cuisine and are avid buyers of chestnuts. Every major metropolitan area has an extensive network of Asian food stores and distributors. They will bargain to pay as low a price as possible. Some prefer smaller nuts, considering them sweeter and more flavorful. By contacting stores near you, you can learn who the buyers are.

Restaurants

Buy local is a major trend for many upscale restaurants. These can be excellent markets, and also eliminate the middleman in the sales process. Develop relationships with area chefs that specialize in this cuisine. This is also a great way to gain publicity for your farm. The chefs will have time slots in their schedule for reviewing new foods. They are approached by many vendors so set up an appointment and give them samples to try and suggestions for how to prepare them.

Farmers Markets

Roasting chestnuts to taste and for sale at farmers markets is an excellent way to sell your crop and educate consumers on how to use chestnuts, as well as promote your farm. You also get retail instead of wholesale dollars and this can provide more income, especially in the early stages of orchard development.

Internet direct to consumer

This process brings the highest dollar return per pound, but also entails a substantial amount of time, answering emails, processing orders and shipping individual orders by UPS or USPS. You will need to set up a Merchant Services account with your bank for accepting credit cards online using a shopping cart. There are a number of smaller orchards selling this way currently in America, and prices vary.

One of the key issues with selling online is getting found among all of the other competing sites, through design to enhance Search Engine Optimization (SEO) or paid searches such as Google Adwords.

Value added products

Some growers have had excellent results with selling nuts or dried nuts to breweries that make chestnut beer (links), and for manufacturing into other products.

In Europe, chestnuts are dried and ground into flour, which is used in a variety of cakes, pastries, pasta and desserts. Chestnuts are also ground into a puree and sweetened with cane sugar and other flavorings, resulting in delicious jams and preserves.

MARKETING

There is no organized marketing of chestnuts in America. This is a major need for the industry and will increase the consumption and sales of chestnuts.

The Chestnut Growers of America ( www.chestnutgrowers.org) is the only growers association devoted to chestnuts. The CGA publishes a newsletter and holds annual meetings in different parts of the country where growers can meet and learn from each other.

The following is a list of different marketing techniques to help you sell your crop:

This is clearly the first step in the process, to give customers information on where and how to buy. There are many inexpensive website design and hosting solutions available today, depending on the complexity of whether or not your site is informational only or you intend to sell directly from the site. It is important to update your website regularly. Search engines pick up on new information, and having a news section on the home page helps inform customers what is going on.

Email and Facebook

Email is a very effective tool for selling and you should build an email list at every opportunity, such as when meeting people at Farmers Markets, etc. You can also build target lists of customers such as local produce buyers, restaurants, etc. Make sure you have a “join our mailing list” link on your site.

Facebook can be an effective tool but requires effort to post updates and build a “Like” network.

Newspaper and local magazine articles

Local columnists look for new ideas all of the time, and chestnuts are a perfect seasonal topic. Feed them information such as a fact sheet, website address, how to buy, etc.

Farm events

Having a fall farm tour, during or after harvest, is an excellent way to spread knowledge about your products, and is easy to promote through local newspapers, etc. Your County Extension Agent will have a valuable network and mailing list to promote farm tours. Make sure your website is always mentioned.

Point of purchase fliers on how to handle chestnuts at both the store level and at home, and recipes are an effective way to educate consumers.

National marketing

One of the goals of CGA is to establish a national marketing program. Point-of-sale fliers and recipe cards are simple and universally useful. National advertising is very expensive, and there is not sufficient nut supply at this current time to afford a national campaign.


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