This document contains information on:
Chestnut Germplasm and Cultivars, Horticultural Care and Orchard Management, Harvest and Storage, and Product Development and Marketing.
If you have experience as a field-crop grower or orchardist, you will see that some of the information and procedures are routine and well understood. Those of you without a strong background in farming may not have thought about some of these issues. If you are interested in the history of growing chestnut in Michigan, take some time to read the section on History to read about past efforts.
Unlike the last time I wrote this document in 2001, Michigan chestnut growers have begun marketing chestnuts to consumers around the country. Michigan growers have options as to how to market their chestnuts. They may choose to join a marketing cooperative that will size, store, bag and sell members chestnuts. There are also growers who sell their own chestnuts and who must find their own markets. Michigan chestnuts can be found in restaurants and homes around the state and the entire country. Shipments of peeled, frozen Michigan chestnuts are sent to distributors in western and eastern states. Our chestnuts are found in some of the finest grocery stores, deli and restaurants in Michigan and other states. Michigan chestnuts even play an important role in Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales’ seasonal offering Fuego del Otono Ale (Dexter, MI). Michigan even provides chestnut products for a brewery in Norway, which makes an award winning Christmas ale.
The domestic chestnut industry is expanding and new productive chestnut farms are being established in various locations. Currently, it is believed that Michigan can market all the chestnuts it can grow, and more growers are needed to meet the demand. The real question becomes how much money can you make growing chestnuts? That is still undecided. You can make more money if you follow some simple and basic guidelines from the beginning. If you choose to not follow these guidelines, your efforts will probably fall short of your goals. Therefore, I suggest you take the time to read all the way to the last section before you plant a single tree and before choosing a field to establish an orchard. If you feel you can follow these basic guidelines, I invite you write down the purpose of your orchard, the goals you want to meet and follow this up by developing a business plan. No matter what is said, chestnut orchards are still a pioneering industry and we are still learning lessons each year. You will need to be flexible and resourceful if you want to meet the demand of the chestnut industry.