May 7, 2018
Story by Mark Phillips, Capital Institute Field Guide to a Regenerative Economy
Photo above: Kalyan Uprichard and Seva Tower pose proudly with their diversified nut orchard at Nutwood Farm in Cummington, Massachusetts. Winter 2018. Credit for all photos: Mark Phillips
IN THE SPRING of 2017, 35 people gathered at Back the Lane Farm in Stephentown, New York, for a workshop with Mark Shepard, author of Restoration Agriculture, to witness the design and implementation of a permaculture inspired chestnut and hazelnut orchard. As the founder of New Forest Farm in Viola, Wisconsin — a commercial scale, perennial agricultural ecosystem that mimics the native ecology of its Wisconsin bioregion — Shepard has served as resource and inspiration for farmers aspiring to use agroforestry, or the intentional cultivation of trees, as a vehicle for ecological restoration and financial profitability. Our story highlights the work of three diversified tree farms in the Hudson valley area, united by the bold vision that chestnuts and hazelnuts can one day be the staple food of the Northeast region and beyond.
As woody perennials that produce nuts year after year without the annual tillage required of grains and vegetables, chestnuts and hazelnuts are ecosystem services providers par excellence–reclaiming degraded landscapes while sequestering carbon in topsoil and plant biomass.
Listen to Nutwood Farm’s LIVE Interview with Farm to Fork on Valley Free Radio 103.3 FM — May 16, 2017
Cummington pair look to pioneer nut farming in Western Mass. –Feb 7, 2017
For the Hampshire Gazette
CUMMINGTON — When Sara Tower began farming about eight years ago, she worked mostly with vegetables, which is typical of many farmers in the area. Next fall, though, she and her partner will harvest a crop that is new to western Massachusetts — nuts.
Last year, Tower and Kalyan Uprichard, co-owners of Nutwood Farm in Cummington, planted 350 nut trees on their 8-acre farm. By 2026, they expect to harvest 10,000 pounds of nuts, including chestnuts, walnuts and hazelnuts.
“We’re changing the food system,” Tower said.
Tower and Uprichard’s goal is to introduce the practice of nut farming, a regenerative form of agriculture, to western Massachusetts. They anticipate planting 200 additional trees this spring and more over the next four years.
“We’re excited to try this out, be the guinea pigs and see what works,” Tower said.
Tower and Uprichard were inspired to delve into the business of nut farming after reading about regenerative agriculture, or farming that builds healthy soil. Uprichard has been in farming for three years, but this is his first commercial venture.
According to Tower, perennial plants are beneficial to the soil, which gives nut farming its appeal.
While researching perennial plants, Uprichard said, “We realized there aren’t any nuts commercially growing in our state.” So, the pair decided to take on the endeavor.
The downside is that the nuts take years before they are ready to harvest and Tower speculates that is why nut farming is not popular here.
Chestnuts and walnuts can take six to eight years before they are harvested for the first time, according to Tower. Hazelnuts generally take three years.
“It’s definitely a long-term kind of venture,” she said.
Once the trees are finally nut-bearing, though, they can be harvested every year, said Uprichard.
Next fall, Tower and Uprichard will collect 50 to 100 pounds of hazelnuts from trees they planted last spring.
Ten years from now, this harvest amount is expected to multiply. “One of the whole things about nut trees (is that) the older they get, the bigger they get and the more nuts they produce,” Tower said.
Hazelnut trees typically grow to be 10 to 15 feet tall. Walnut and chestnut trees, on the other hand, can extend up to 60 or 80 feet, Tower said. When the nuts are ripe in the fall, she explained, they drop to the ground. Tower and Uprichard count on their land to be covered in nuts in the coming years.
Currently, nut trees occupy one and a half acres of the land at Nutwood Farm. Tower and Uprichard hope to eventually expand to five acres of nut trees.
Hazelnut trees, the primary crop at Nutwood Farm, will be planted in groups called “plantings.” So far, the partners have planted one planting at the farm. They plan to set out five plantings over the next five years, according to Uprichard. When a planting reaches about six years old, he said, the trees in that planting will be coppiced. This, Tower explained, involves cutting the tree right down to the ground so it can sprout new roots again.
“I’ve never done nut farming before, so I’m definitely learning a lot as we go,” Tower said.
When they harvest their first major round of nuts, Tower and Uprichard plan to bring their bounty to local farmers markets. Some work will go into preparing the nuts for sale. For example, hazelnuts need to be dehusked and cracked, Tower explained.
In a decade, when the farm’s yield is much higher, Tower said, they may consider selling nuts wholesale to restaurants or bakeries.
“We’re hoping to also inspire and help other people incorporate nuts into their operations,” she said.
To help the development of nut processing and storage on Nutwood Farm, Tower and Uprichard have launched a crowdfunding campaign. They also held a launch party over the past weekend where they screened the film, “Inhabit: A Permaculture Perspective,” at the Cummington Community House. About 100 people attended the filming, Uprichard said.
“We’re really excited about getting out there and letting people know what we’re doing and hopefully getting some support,” Tower said.
Entrepreneurs talk expansion at slow money showcase –Oct 23, 2016
NORTHAMPTON — About 110 years ago, Joseph Serio started selling fruit and vegetables off the streets of Northampton. He went from crate to horse and wagon, until he had a heart attack and could no longer take his business mobile. Serio then set up a stand outside his home to keep the business going.
In 1950, he opened a Serio’s Market on 65 State St., a popular store that is still selling locally-sourced goods some 66 years later. But Jaimie Golec, general manager of her family’s business, said the shop is struggling to stay alive.
With fierce competition from corporate stores, the local market is looking to alter its business model from a grocery selling locally-sourced goods into an eatery.
To do that, however, Golec needs help. So last week, she pitched her idea to a group of individuals, investors and philanthropists who are interested in supporting the region’s local food economy.
Golec was among six entrepreneurs that presented their businesses and goals for future growth at event hosted by the nonprofit Slow Money Pioneer Valley at Smith College. The workshop’s aim was to bring investor and food system supporters together with local farm and food businesses interested in support.
Slow Money was started in 2008 by Woody Tasch, an Amherst College alum, after he published the book “Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing As If Food, Farms, and Fertility Mattered.” The group now has 18 local networks and 11 investment clubs.
Krya Kristof, a member of the local chapter’s steering committee, said Slow Money helps startups with business plans, networking and resources. The group works in collaboration with PVGrows which focuses on ecological and economic sustainability and vitality of the Pioneer Valley food system, according to pvgrows.net.
The Pioneer Valley chapter hosted its first entrepreneur showcase in 2014. The showcases give businesses an opportunity to share their stories and what is needed for economic growth.
A one-man brewery
Take Stoneman Brewery, for instance. This small, one-man brewery is located on a 74-acre farm in Colrain, where owner Justin Korby does most his business based on the model of a beer CSA, or community supported agriculture. That means he uses almost entirely locally sourced ingredients.
Driven by high demand for the beer he brews, Korby hopes to expand production from his farm in the hills to the center of town and wants to upgrade his equipment from a one-barrel to a 10-barrel system, which would expand the CSA membership as well as distribution to stores.
“I constantly sell my beer faster than I can brew it,” he said.
Korby seeks to make his brewery sustainable by bringing in people to help brew and distribute the beer. He is also looking into purchasing an old church in Colrain to house the brewery. Korby said the business investment would lead to revitalization of the town as well as a possibility of a restaurant collaboration with his brewery.
Other business presentersBree-Z-Knoll Farm in Leyden started in 1968 with two cows on 20 acres of land, according to Randy and Angie Facey. The Facey’s say the dairy farm now has about 300 cows on over 500 acres of land.
“We still know them all by name,” Angie said.
However, the business still needs investments to grow. At the showchase, the Facey’s said they would like to invest in a robotic milking facility that would allow the cows to voluntarily milk themselves without human interaction.
Nutwood Farm, a startup by Sara Tower and Kalyan Uprichard focused on hazelnut production, also sought investment support. Tower and Uprichard said they have planted over 350 nut trees on 1.5 acres of newly plowed land in Cummington and will continue to plant over the next four years.
The farm will harvest its first hazelnuts in 2018. In 10 years, they expect to harvest 10,000 pounds hazelnuts annually. Tower said residents of Massachusetts will then have the option of purchasing cost competitive, locally grown and locally processed nuts and nut products.
To expand their business, the farm wants to invest in a solar greenhouse and facilities for drying and storage.
Still, some investors are looking to help in ways that go beyond money.
Sadie Stull, a resident of Plainfield, said came to the event to show support and said she invests her personal time helping soil the land and planting trees. Stull said her form of investment is “much deeper than money.”
—GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS » Buy this Image