By Badger Johnson
This spring began a partnership between the Southern Ohio Chestnut Company (SOCC) and Sugarbush Valley Farm (SVF), where we installed a new chestnut orchard on sloping, well-drained agricultural land where a mature white pine planting had recently been harvested and sold. The owners had considered letting native hardwoods replace the old pine lands before they invited us to pitch chestnuts for the site. The system chosen at SVF included mulching the pine residue and stumps, installing drip irrigation, erecting tree tubes and planting select seedlings for later field grafting.
Recently, on June 5, SVF hosted an on-farm field day with 60 participants to view the one-acre timber chestnut planting, 10 acres of culinary chestnuts with black locusts as a secondary crop, and the new photovoltaic, off-grid pump house with a pond water purification system. Later many attendees joined us at our nearby orchard at the Woodcock Nature Preserve, where we talked about alley cropping, a cut flower operation between the trees, as well as managing parts of the orchard for game habitat with native warm season grasses and wildflowers from Pheasants Forever. Guests were given handouts showing the financial argument for chestnuts, as well as a flow chart for different ways they could work with SOCC.
After 20 years, annual revenue on 10 acres is projected at $116,000. Clearly, this investment requires patience, but it certainly beats the price of hay off of the same land.
Get in touch with us at SOCC for information about rate of return and the costs to install, maintain and break even. Additionally, we are available to either help design and install your orchard, or lease or purchase land from you. Shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We hope to hear from you!