whether all the insanity I put up with here is actually worth it.
When I'm juggling
chores and emergencies, when seed is germinating like mad in the cellar, faster than we can plant; when catalogs and newsletters keep getting later and later, and weeds are growing in the field, faster than we can mow, or cultivate; and bills are piling up in the office, faster than we can generate income; and sons are growing up, faster than I ever expected; it does occur to me that a nice office in a nice college somewhere, with nice students and a nice salary, would be, well... nice. Really, really nice.
The bottom line this year has been clear; for all the doubts; for all the weird weather, scary thunderstorms, worries, and fusses; all I have to do is take a walk through the hazels to see: it works. The hazels are a real crop. No one who sees them now can doubt it. And yes, it is worth it.
Philip A. Rutter
For years, we've always had to tell folks who wanted to plant our hybrid hazels that there just were not enough plants to go around, and to please be patient. At last, due to several good seed years and our increasing ability to produce seedlings ("tubelings") in our greenhouse, we now have what we hope is a supply good enough to meet this year's demand.
Last year we produced about 40,000 tubelings; this year, so far, the number is about 60,000. And we're still planting.
It's not too late to plant this year!! We plant right into early September, any day we can. So send your orders in, and get a jump on the planting! At last!
It's always been our goal to provide the best plants we can at the most affordable prices. The simple fact is that the tubelings are just more expensive to produce than field-grown bare root seedlings. It takes a tremendous amount of hand labor. But we've been locked into the tubeling route by the fact that when we try to grow hazels in the field, we just wind up with fat mice and bluejays. So our plant prices have always been in a strange gray area; more expensive than forestry or windbreak plants; much less expensive than fruit trees.
Now, though, we are learning how to manage crops and seed, little by little, the cost per plant is coming down, and we are passing these savings on to you, as fast as we can.
Like many another business, we've finally bitten the bullet and joined the Internet world. You can find us now on the World Wide Web, at: http://www.badgersett.com
The demand for information and advice on growing our woody agriculture crops has become tremendous; sometimes getting to the point where we feel we could do nothing all day but answer the phone. The Web site should help.
We realize not everyone has a computer in their home yet, but most folks do have access, either through a friend, or a public library; or through their County Agent.
Having just started page construction in April, the site is still far from complete, and far from being organized in the best possible fashion. Eventually we will have pretty much everything we've ever put in print available there, about hazels, chestnuts, Badgersett, and Woody Agriculture. There will be a "current events" section that can keep folks informed about upcoming shows, meetings, and demonstrations, as well as the latest developments on the farm.
You won't be able to actually order plants through our Web Site (at least not this year), but we will have an order form there that you can copy or download, as well as the latest version of our catalog, and an up to the minute statement of availability.
We plan to have the Web Site eventually constructed so it can function on 3 levels; Newcomers; Tell Me More; and More Than Anyone In Their Right Mind Would Want To Know. And of course we'll provide links to other relevant sites, as we can.
Or more precisely, as Perry can; Perry Rutter is the one in charge of construction and maintenance, in between his other chores here, and the trials of being a High School Senior this coming year. Check us out!! As they say. :-)
In our last episode, fearless readers, you will remember that our heroes were about to embark on the perilous project of signing up for a federal farm program; the CRP, or Conservation Reserve Program.
The entire tale would take too long to tell here, but suffice it to say, the word "snafu" comes to mind. Those of you not familiar with the term, ask a WWII vet.
Originally, working with then Congressman Tim Penny and the Then head of the USDA, it had been decided (in Washington) to cover these experimental hazel and chestnut plantings under existing rules and legislation. The expense would be small, the benefits great, and we could all avoid the enormous expense of writing new legislation. The plantings would be allowed, and cost sharing would be available.
Unfortunately, too much time passed between the time this was agreed to, and set up, and the time we tried to implement it. With new people in office, none of whom were party to the original discussions and agreements, the general response when asked to ok plantings of hazels on CRP has been "Huh?". Not their fault. Mine, if anyone's.
The current status is simple; hazels and chestnuts ARE okayed to put on CRP plantings, BUT there will be no cost sharing available for them. You'll have to plant entirely at your own expense.
If there is sufficient interest and outcry, we can take this back to the USDA, and work again to get cost sharing available. It would help a great deal, of course. And it would make wonderful sense for the goals of the Conservation Reserve. But the time and expense involved in rearguing the position is not nil, and we'd need to get our positions well prepared. Any one out there interested?
(Wanted: 2 or 3 Ellis Transplanters!)
Sunday, June 28, the whole Badgersett crew went for a day of exploration to Mark and Jen Shephard's New Forest Farm, in Viola, Wisconsin. The immediate reason was to investigate the potential of 3 different kinds of vegetable transplanting machines to handle our hazel tubelings. We found one that WORKS!!
Since the most economic way to grow and plant our hazels at the moment is via the "tubeling" route, rather than the more traditional "bare root dormant" route, we've been trying for some time to find a transplanting machine that could cope with the plants in their "tubeling" state. Basically, the standard forestry transplanting machines have been too rough, and too imprecise for these actively growing young plants. The plants either got broken, or planted too deep, or too shallow.
Mark is involved in organic vegetable production and marketing, however, and had access (via pulling in a bunch of favors) to several different machines normally used for transplanting things like tomatoes, peppers, and tobacco. In spite of having gotten 2.5" of rain the night before, we went ahead; have to grab the rare opportunities to get together when we can.
The first two machines simply did not work; one was designed to plant into a pre-laid plastic mulch; the other was a fairly simple machine intended to open a trench for the plants to be placed in by hand. Neither worked, at all.
The third machine was of a variety Mark called a "duckbill" transplanter; the stem of the plant is grabbed by a rubber gripper that opens and closes mechanically, and looks vaguely like a duck's bill (if you have a really great imagination). This one placed and packed the plants as near to perfectly as I've seen any transplanter do.
The machine that worked was made by the D. R. Ellis Manufacturing Company, of Verona, Wisconsin. We didn't find any model number on it, just the maker's name. It's pretty simple, with a chain drive on the plant handling wheel, and a 30 gallon (or so) water barrel built in to provide a little water to the new transplants.
In about 15 minutes, we planted 300 hazels; as well as could be done by hand. They did still require an occasional touch up, for the one plant in 20 that had a clod left on it, or the one in 10 that needed just a little more soil on top of the peat root plug. All in all, we agreed it plants about 50 times faster than anyone could do it by hand. One person to drive the tractor, 2 sitting on the transplanter (one to pull plugs and hand them to the person actually feeding plants into the machine- it goes too fast for one person to manage alone.) And one person walking behind on "clean up". For a first trial, it was spectacularly successful; undoubtedly, with time and experience, the same machine can function even faster.
This is a major breakthrough in the mechanization of this crop- we now have the capability to plant acre upon acre, by machine. Fairly soon we'll have custom planting services available, so interested growers will not need to have their own machines, or the expertise to run them; they can hire the job out for less than it would cost them to do it themselves.
Right now, however; WE NEED TO FIND SEVERAL OF THESE MACHINES; AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. We need to buy them, used if possible, so we can finish the CRP plantings here at Badgersett on schedule this year. There's no way to do it by hand. Needs must.
If you can help us find the machines, or can direct us to someone who can, we will not only be eternally grateful, but will provide you with 200 hazel or chestnut plants as a finder's fee. Or you can dicker for some other reward. Let us know!!
Every year we have calls from folks who are getting anxious because their plants haven't arrived yet. Most people are so used to planting bare-root seedlings, as early as possible in the Spring, that they have a hard time believing that early Spring is actually the wrong time for our plants.
Because the nuts are so attractive to birds and mice, we must start them in a greenhouse. That means the best, fastest, cheapest plants we can produce are not the typical bare root dormant seedlings, but actively growing, mini-container "tubelings". One of the great advantages of the tubeling system is that the work of planting can be spread out and performed when convenient, instead of all being crammed into a very short "window" in early Spring.
It also means the plants are simply not big or tough enough to plant until very late Spring or early Summer.
We plant here from June through August; pretty much every day it isn't raining. We've tried planting into September and October, but don't recommend it for folks north or west of us. Those of you in Zone 5 and 6 (we're a cold 4) should be able to plant with good success through September, and even into October, further south. Check the recommendations of your local tree experts.
And think about how nice it is not to have all your planting crammed into the same 2 weeks in April!
Last time we reported that Lesser Chestnut Weevils had been identified here at Badgersett in 1995; along with the comment that we saw none in 1996. Now we can report that we also saw none in 1997; neither adults, larvae, nor exit holes in any of the chestnuts we harvested, stored, and germinated.
We realize this doesn't mean the weevils may have magically disappeared from Badgersett; far more likely is the probability that they are surviving in very low numbers, or as larvae in the soil. We'll continue to watch carefully for them.
This is the year when we are facing the standard growth requirements of all new businesses. Advice from several experts we've consulted indicates we will need to incorporate, for a variety of reasons.
Exactly which route we will take is still undecided, but it is likely that in some form or another, we will be seeking investors to help us raise the capital needed for expansion. This is not a solicitation to buy shares!! As they say. Get in touch if you think you might be interested.
The 9 acre planting of Badgersett hybrid hazels at Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City (Nebraska) is thriving, despite a few problems. Although seedling mortality was higher than expected last year, the field is filling out, and the plants are growing fast. Many of the plants from the first year's planting are now over 4 feet tall. This is outstanding performance, due in large part to the excellent care the plants are given.
Last fall during a regular inspection, we found the first catkins (male flowers) showing on a number of plants. The Arbor Day Farm staff temporarily caged these plants over the winter, to prevent deer from eating the catkins (deer don't eat many hazel twigs; but they DO love the catkins!)
This spring the result of all the careful husbandry was clearly visible; quite a few plants will bear small crops of nuts this year, and a few will bear heavily. The plants now bearing were seedlings (our "tubelings") planted in 1995.
Interestingly, a number of the plants bearing nuts this year, including at least one that is bearing quite heavily, had no catkins at all . While the presence of catkins usually means there will be female flowers present also, the absence of male flowers does NOT mean there will be no females, particularly in the early bearing years.
If you get a chance, stop in and visit this planting! It's really something to see, and will be a significant woody agriculture demonstration and research site for years to come. This year, there should be 50-100 lbs of nuts. Next year, 1,000 lbs, at least. After that... we'll have to measure in tons.
Eastern Filbert Blight (EFB) is THE disease of hazels. A specialized parasitic fungus native to North America and often found growing on native hazels, it is usually lethal to European hazels, which are the basis of the hazel industry in the Pacific Northwest. The fungus infects the bark.
The disease was named "Eastern" because it was commonly found on eastern wild hazels. Until the unfortunate introduction of the disease into the Pacific Northwest a few years ago, it was assumed the fungus was restricted to the eastern half of the continent. If fact, however, the natural history and distribution of the disease has not attracted much careful scientific attention until quite recently.
In 1994, while collecting wild hazel germplasm, I found the disease visibly infecting native beaked hazels in South Dakota, in the Black Hills. The disease was only visible on plants that were under some sort of obvious stress, usually compaction of the soil surrounding the roots by an adjacent foot path. I could not find the disease visible on adjacent unstressed plants.
In 1997, my brother Paul in Boulder, Colorado, took me to see native beaked hazels growing in one of the Boulder mountain parks. Once again, looking at plants stressed by soil compaction around their roots, I found the unmistakable linear EFB lesions on several plants. I could not find any on the many unstressed plants just a few feet away from the path.
In both locations, the chance of the disease stemming from human plant importations of infected eastern hazels would be extremely remote. The fact that the disease was only visible on otherwise stressed plants is also suggestive. We may have to consider the possibility that the original distribution of the fungus may be much larger than previously thought, with the fungus coexisting almost invisibly with native hazels in many circumstances. Among the implications of these observations is the unhappy possibility that the fungus may possess considerably greater genetic diversity than previously measured, or assumed. P.A.R.
(One of the world's most ancient and persistent questions...)
Something there is that does not love small nuts...
If you will forgive my mangling Robert Frost. Given a choice, virtually everyone will reach for the largest nut in the bowl. I'm convinced it's a basic primate brain response, going back to the days when hunter-gatherers wanted to grab the most food they could, as fast as possible.
How big is a grain of rice?
How big is a grain of wheat?
Tiny, in fact, compared to even the smallest thing we would call a "nut". And yet it is rice and wheat, and the other small grains, that feed most of the world.
Some of our customers, hunter-gatherer-like, will head straight for our "Extra-Large" type nut seedlings, even going so far as to check the box that says "Will NOT accept substitutes". They want the XL's, or nothing.
We try to keep everyone happy, so we do offer the XL's, though always being in short supply, they cost a bit more.
But we also tell EVERYONE WHO WILL LISTEN that we DON'T think the XL's are our most PRODUCTIVE plants.
Simply put; sometimes, a plant has nuts that qualify as "XL" because there are FEWER of them on the bush.
Think of it this way; say a bush has 100 energy units available to put into nuts. If there are only 25 nuts on the bush, each nut will be 4 units big. If there are 50 nuts on the bush, each one would be only 2 units big. There would be more nuts; but smaller.
Sure, I'd rather harvest my 100 energy units by picking 25 nuts, instead of 50. IF every bush had the same amount of energy available for nuts. But it doesn't work that way. The genetics involved in how much energy goes into nuts, and in how many nuts the bush can set, are INDEPENDENT of each other.
So- bigger nuts does NOT equal bigger CROPS. And just for fun; smaller nuts does NOT equal bigger crops, either.
I can show you plants with tiny crops of big nuts, and plants with tiny crops of tiny nuts. Keep in mind that the development of these hybrid hazels is still in a relatively early stage; and they can often be variable. SOMETIMES big nuts are big because there are just not very many of them. We try never to sell seedlings of plants that are really unproductive; but variations do occur. I hope the day will come when we can promise bushes with HUGE crops of HUGE nuts; but that day is not here yet.
IN FACT: the most productive plants, at the moment, are frequently rated MEDIUMS by our statistical analysis. And often, they are considerably more productive, in terms of pounds of total production, than the majority of plants rated Large, or Extra Large. This seems to be because these plants have genetics which provide them with lots of nuts per bush, and lots of energy going to the nuts. And often the nuts are a little smaller than "Large" mostly because there are so very many of them. (Our size classes, incidentally, are based on a combination of kernel weight and whole nut weight- NOT volume.)
So. When you order your plants; think about what it is you really want; big nuts? or big crops? They may not be the same thing. If you just want a few pounds of nuts to crack out by hand over the holidays, maybe you really do want the XL's; but if you are looking to tons per acre type production, where harvest and cracking will ultimately be handled by machinery; it will be over-all productivity that counts.
And remember how big a grain of rice is.
back to catalog
The Center for Integrated Natural Resources and Agricultural Management (CINRAM) at the University of Minnesota was formed in 1995 with the intent of catalyzing land use systems that provide economic benefits AND environmental protection across the landscape. It was apparent from our discussions with farmers and agency personnel that there were a lack of readily adoptable options available to do this. However, the hazels developed at Badgersett caught our interest because of their potential both to provide conservation benefits and a crop with economic value within agroforestry plantings such as windbreaks, riparian buffer strips, and living snow fence.
For the past three years CINRAM has been working with Philip Rutter to learn about Badgersett's operation, research, and the characteristics of the hazel plants and nuts. In 1997 CINRAM staff brought Rutter and University researchers interested in the potential of hazels together for a series of meetings. One outcome of these meetings was the development of a proposal that was submitted to the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI).
To our delight, AURI funded the proposal, and has been very supportive of this project. The goal of the project is to help position hazels for adoption into Minnesota's agricultural systems where they can simultaneously provide a profitable crop and conservation benefits. The project includes: 1) further developing the technology for vegetatively propagating hazel cultivars that have been developed at Badgersett Research Farm and; 2) collecting and analyzing data available from Badgersett and from individuals who have planted Badgersett hazels in order to provide a solid foundation for moving forward with a larger hazel initiative.
The partners in this project bring together a wealth of expertise and enthusiasm. They include Philip Rutter from Badgersett and University of Minnesota researchers: Jim Luby, Dave Davis and Harold Pellett from the Horticulture Department; Erv Oelke from the Agronomy & Plant Genetics Department; Bill Breene from the Food Science and Nutrition Department; Ken Brooks from the Forest Resources Department; and Scott Josiah and Jan Joannides from CINRAM.
Jan Joannides, Center for Integrated Natural Resources and Agricultural Management, University of Minnesota, 612-624-4296
Last year, in an effort to provide more transplanting options, we began selling hazel "crowns", our name for young plants consisting of just the bare roots; no top stems at all. We'd tried this ourselves, of course, before recommending others try it.
We've run into a number of situations where our normal tubelings can be difficult to establish, both in very dry weather or soils, or in sites with heavy animal pressure. For such cases where tubelings have proven difficult, we now feel that transplanting hazel crowns may be a good alternative.
In our own "difficult" plantings, particularly CRP ground with serious weed competition, one year after planting, the hazel crowns frequently had 3 or 4 healthy stems, where the tubeling transplants had only one.
Following the double herbicide drift problems of 1995 and '96, our chestnuts were hurting, and the nut crops very short.
This year, after a fair crop of nuts in '97, we do have chestnut tubelings available. While our chestnut hybrids are not as advanced in their breeding programs as our hazels, they are still the best available anywhere for the cold climates of the upper Midwest. As we are watching the new plantings come into bearing, it is clear our selection programs are working; each successive generation gives us a higher percentage of plants that thrive in this climate.
Starting this year we are offering chestnuts in 4 classes; Nut-type; Tree-type, All-Purpose and Select. Chestnuts do NOT come as true from seed as our hazels do; but in general many seedlings will substantially resemble their parent. We believe this is a reasonable way for growers to try to get the sort of trees they want.
Nut-type. These are trees which have a record of bearing "good sized" nuts, and good consistent crops. Because we are so far north, it is rare for our nuts to rival the biggest Chinese or European nuts in size, and few of these will bear nuts that could compete in the international commercial market. These trees are extremely cold hardy, however, and bear nuts 3-5 times larger than the old American chestnuts. Often the size of the tree is reduced; either by genetics, or by the fact they put so much energy into nuts; we aren't sure yet.
Tree-Type. These are hybrids, but generally resemble their American (and/or European) chestnut ancestors more than their Chinese. Nuts tend to be small wild-type; trees big. These are NOT "American-type" trees; but could easily get big enough to make timber.
All-Purpose. A sort of "happy-medium" tree; nuts bigger than tiny wild ones; trees bigger than the real nut types.
If it has been a few years since you've visited us, or if you haven't ever (gasp!) THIS is definitely the year you should come!
Here it's only late June as I write this, and we already have bushes so loaded with nuts they are bending down to the ground. Last year's crop looked great, but in fact once the data were in, it was slightly smaller than the 1996 crop. This year, without a doubt, the crop is the heaviest ever. Come see!!
Because of the mild winter and early Spring hot spell, the nut crops look like they will mature as much as 2 weeks sooner than usual. We'll have to pick quite a few nuts before the Field Day, so the earliest bushes will be already harvested and empty when you see them. Plenty of bushes will still be loaded though, and you will be able to see our harvest processes better than in previous years. If things go as planned, we'll have a functioning version of our newly designed husking machine available for you to look over.
Loaded with nuts, the bushes have grown so big and tight some of the rows are actually a squeak to get through. If you've got a pick-your-own ANYTHING business, you need a hazel maze!! Bring some kids; and watch 'em have fun!
we will be establishing an additional 40 acres this year, once again requiring new methods and machines for getting things done. If you are thinking about large plantings yourself, you should come see how last year's have fared, and how this year's are going. We'll still be planting when the Field Day arrives.
For the first time, we'll have plants available on an unlimited basis; first come- first served. If you want more than 200 plants, though, it would be a good idea to call ahead and warn us, so we can get them ready for you.
Titled "Enterprise Development Through Agroforestry: Farming the Agroforest for Specialty Products", this is an important and wide-ranging conference on many aspects of the state of the Agroforestry art. Speakers and displays from around the country are scheduled; the keynote speaker is Adella Backiel, Director of Sustainable Development for the USDA. Badgersett will be represented in all phases; speaking, displaying, and as a key stop on the tours of the region which take place on the 7th. For more info watch our website, or contact CINRAM at 612-624-4296.