Growing Nuts on the Homestead: Guest David Hughes

On Today’s Podcast Episode, Harold Has A Conversation With Market Farmer and Nurseryman David Hughes. They talk all about nut trees, from picking the right trees to plant, tree maintenance, and how to utilize the harvest.

The Modern Homesteading Podcast, Episode 221 – September 27, 2023

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David has been a market grower for 25 plus years and a nurseryman for 14 plus years. He owns and operates Rock Bridge Tree Farm on 8 1/2 acres in Bethpage, TN, selling to customers all over the country. He specializes in Pecans, Hazelnuts, Hickories, and other nut producing trees and desires to teach the small-space homesteader how to make their property self-sustaining through the power of nut trees.

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The Nutty Potential of Homesteading: An Insight with Farmer Dave

Introduction to Nut Trees in Homesteading

In the realm of modern homesteading, the cultivation of nut trees often takes a back seat, overshadowed by more common gardening ventures. However, as Farmer Dave from Tennessee illustrates, these perennial giants hold untapped potential for homesteaders.

Farmer Dave’s Journey Into Nut Tree Cultivation

Dave’s agricultural journey was influenced by his family’s farming background. His venture into market gardening and eventually nut trees was a blend of passion and serendipity. His encounter with customers seeking pecan trees led him to explore the varieties of nut trees, including hickories and improved hickory nuts.

Discovering Improved Hickory Nuts

Dave shares an intriguing discovery of shellbark hickories, which dramatically differed from the typical hard-shelled, small nuts. These nuts were as large as walnuts, easily cracked open to reveal whole halves – a stark contrast to the tedious cracking process of wild hickories.

Nut Trees for Homesteads

The Versatility and Benefits

Nut trees offer versatility and benefits that extend beyond their edible harvest. They can provide shade for livestock, be interplanted in gardens without adverse effects, and their wood can be used for various purposes.

Types of Nut Trees Suitable for Homesteads

  • Pecan Trees: Thriving in warm climates with hot nights, pecan trees are suitable for a wide range of areas, including parts of the Midwest and Northern states.
  • Hickory Trees: Adaptable to cooler climates, hickories can be a more suitable choice for Northern homesteaders.
  • Chestnut Trees: These require some consideration regarding the specific type and are ideal for silvopasture practices.
  • Hazelnut Trees: Quick to produce and adaptable, hazelnuts are excellent for homesteaders looking for a faster yield.
  • Black Walnuts: Known for their strong flavor, black walnuts are a versatile choice, though their allelopathic nature might require strategic planting.

Market Potential of Nut Trees

Unique Selling Proposition

The real appeal lies in the market potential of these nuts. Rare varieties like thin-shelled hickories or chestnuts can create a unique selling proposition at local markets.

Long-term Investment

While nut trees require patience, they represent a long-term investment with minimal yearly work. They can become a legacy, benefitting future generations of homesteaders.

Challenges and Considerations

Selection of Varieties

Choosing the right variety for your climate and soil type is crucial. Consulting with experts like Dave can prevent costly mistakes.

Seasonal Work

While nut trees don’t demand constant attention, they require seasonal work like pruning and harvesting. However, compared to fruit trees, they are less labor-intensive.

Storage and Selling

Nut trees produce a storable crop, making them a practical choice for year-round selling or consumption. This aspect significantly enhances their appeal for homesteaders looking to establish a sustainable and profitable venture.

Conclusion: Embracing the Nut Tree Opportunity

In conclusion, nut trees offer a unique opportunity for homesteaders to diversify their agricultural practices. With proper planning and patience, they can be a fruitful addition to any homestead, both literally and figuratively. As Farmer Dave’s experience shows, the journey into nut tree cultivation can be both rewarding and profitable.