Ohio goes nuts!
Seedlings sales allow nut farmers to see the forest for the trees
By DIANA SHARP
Most people are familiar with the saying, “You can’t see the forest for the trees.” Well, it’s spring and one could declare a similar statement, “You can’t see the forest for the seedlings.” With the approach of Arbor Day, slated for the last Friday in April, tree sales are in full swing.
Spring is a busy time for farmers. As Ohio nears the end of sugaring season and the production of maple syrup draws to a close, another group of Ohio’s niche farmers is busy thinking ahead.
The Ohio Nut Growers Association (ONGA) spring meeting and scion swap will be held Sunday, April 14, at the Kingwood Center, 900 Park Ave. W., in Mansfield. This is a time for area growers to come together to learn about scientific advancements in grafting, marketing and promotion of nuts, to buy seedlings for their operations and to enter their nuts in the Ohio State Fair. More importantly, this time of year is the best to consider planting trees after a cold winter.
The Clear Fork Valley will be represented at this meeting by local grower Bud Luers of the village of Butler. He owns a nut farm that specializes in Black Walnuts. He currently serves as a trustee on the ONGA board and was featured farmer in the 2007 book called “Farms and Foods of Ohio from Garden Gate to Dinner Plate,” written by Marilou Suszko from Hippocrene Books.
Nuts are one of nature’s supper foods. While readers may be most familiar with English Walnuts, which are known for their mild flavor and a shell that is easier to crack, harder shell nuts like Hickory or Black Walnut have gained tremendous popularity among foodies in recent years.
Luers’ nut farm, located in Richland County on Opossum Run Road, just north of Bellville has grafted trees bearing nut fruits, including delicate butternut, the Chinese Chestnut, hazelnuts, hickories, hicans, heartnuts, Japanese butternut, in addition to his main crop the Black Walnut.
The Black Walnut is native to Ohio, once a staple in Native American’s diets. While it has the buttery, nutty flavors of the English Walnut, the Black is favored because of it’s richness in flavor, it’s earthiness and it’s bitter undertones.
“I have good success selling at the farmers’ market in Bellville,” says Leurs. He added, “It is a hobby that has gotten out of control. I have planted over 2,000 black walnut trees over the years.” According to Ohio.org, it is common for farmers and other small-scale growers to sell black walnuts locally for anywhere between $8 and $10 a pound for black walnut meat.
Luers’ 26 acre farm that surrounds his home contains more than 100 grafted Black Walnut Trees and more than 600 seedlings. It is important during harvest time to collect the nuts as they fall. If they sit too long, the shells may get too hard. This isn’t the only challenge to growing nuts. The Clear Fork Valley is often 12 degrees cooler then neighboring counties. While this is good news for the area ski resorts, it leaves Leurs’ trees vulnerable to frost. Disease is also a threat.
“There is a Black Walnut disease going around called thousand canker disease. It is coming in from the west coast and killing all the walnuts there. It has been found in southwest Ohio in some wood found there,” according to Leurs.
At this time of year there are typically a number of sources for seedlings.
In Richland County, the Clear Fork FFA is teaming up with the Soil and Water Conservation Department on Friday, April 12 and Saturday April 13, to sell tree seedlings at the Richland County Fairgrounds Nature Park. Available species will include evergreens, such as Colorado blue spruce, Norway spruce, white pine, Canaan fir, Canadian hemlock and arborvitae. In addition large trees will be offered: white oak, red oak, sugar maple, persimmon, black walnut and tulip tree. Three broad-leaf shrubs will also be sold, the common paw paw and Ohio buckeye. New this year will be a wildlife packet. Birdhouses made by the FFA will also be for sale for $10. The sale begins at 9 a.m. of Friday and ends at 6 p.m. On Saturday, April 13, the sale will be held from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m.
Call your local County Soil and Water Conservation Department to learn of similar sales in your area.
Bud, a retired General Moters worker runs his farm with his wife Marilyn; together they are very active in the OGNA. For more information concerning the upcoming meeting, visit www.onga.org/