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This Year, Chestnuts

Joelle’s family has had stately old chestnut trees as a part of their landscape for years. When we moved to our current farm in 2003, we planted a few offshoots from these trees. Our farm also has three magnificent old walnut trees. Trees like these are planted for the next generations. Based on photos of our farm, our walnut trees were planted in the 1940s. It must have been a trend because many of the farms near us have similar-sized English walnuts trees.
When Joelle and I attended the Great Lakes Ag Expo last December, we happened upon an MSU chestnut bulletin expounding the benefits for farmers to plant chestnuts. And since we already had the chestnut connect  ion with Joelle’s family, we decided to add chestnuts. Now, next to our apples, plums, and pears, there are 16 Basalta #3 and 3 Marival chestnut trees. Hopefully, we will see our first chestnuts in 2015, with strong production in 2017. But unlike the chestnut trees of old, these will be maintained to a height of 20 feet, instead of 60 or 70 feet. 
Planting trees is exciting. The very act of planting an orchard is a statement of optimism for today and the future. While I was planting the trees with Nathan (Nathan helps out on our farm and other farms, and is the son of Mike who works in our office), we started talking about how the farm has changed over the last 10 years. I commented, “Maybe this will be my last major change or addition for a few years.” Nathan, with a Cheshire cat grin, wilily retorted, “I haven’t seen it yet.”
Alas, I must concede he is right. I am such a dreamer and I love to grow food. You see, the winter time is a dangerous time for farmers because now we have time to dream, and the dreaming turns to planning, and planning becomes chestnuts or greenhouse tomatoes or late summer strawberries.
Regardless of my dreaming, there is a real need for healthy farm-fresh food choices and that need is greater than ever today.